Libertarian History/Philosophy

What's Wrong With Ayn Rand?

The goddess of reason wasn't so reasonable

|

Love her or hate her, you can't deny that Ayn Rand, the 20th century's most bellicose/eloquent (select adjective based on political persuasion) defender of laissez-faire capitalism, is experiencing a revival. Sales of her 50-year-old magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, for years second only to the Bible, are soaring even more this year. Two major publishing houses have rushed to release new Rand biographies—by academics, no less—this fall. And there is nary a tea party protest that doesn't prominently splash banners alluding to John Galt, Atlas Shrugged's ubermensch hero.

The latest issue of Reason magazine, with which I am affiliated, has Rand on the cover with a headline proclaiming: "She's Back." GQ echoes the same thing with its own slant, "The Bitch is Back," not to mention a hilariously naughty picture depicting Rand in an S&M outfit standing astride her former devotee Alan Greenspan.

That over 25 years after her death, Rand's persona and ideas command so much attention is testimony to the abiding power of her ideas. Still the question remains, if she is so influential, why are we on the brink of socialized medicine today? Put another way, if Rand were alive, would she be reveling in the renewed attention she is receiving as a measure of her success? Or would she be tearing her hair out in despair at her failure to stop the advancing Big Government juggernaut?

The point is especially powerful if one considers the influence that some of the other great philosophical defenders of liberty have had in the past. John Locke set out to release the individual from the tyranny of religious authorities by enunciating the doctrine of the separation of church and state. Today, this doctrine is the cornerstone of every liberal democracy in the world. Likewise, Adam Smith penned his grand defense of free trade to beat back the mercantilist ideologies that held sway in 18th century Europe. Today, the cause of free trade—notwithstanding occasional bouts of protectionism—is gaining ground worldwide. But Rand's life-long crusade—defeating socialism—which appeared within grasp just two decades ago when the Soviet Union collapsed, now seems to have regressed to the 1930s, when FDR used the economic meltdown to massively intervene in private industry.

Rand's adherents blame this state of affairs on the faulty philosophical principles of society—especially on issues of morality. But replacing false ideas with true ones is precisely what transformative figures do, and certainly what Rand, who firmly believed in the power of reason and truth, was hoping to do. Surely, if she had witnessed the events of last year—the government bailout of banks, the takeover of auto companies, the looming socialization of health care—she'd be wondering where she went wrong. Or, to use her lingo, she'd be "checking her premises."

So where did she go wrong?

Rand's entire project involved liberating the individual from the yoke of collectivism and creating the social, moral, and political conditions in which he could live a fully actualized life. Each individual's own happiness is his highest purpose, she said, and boldly declared selfishness to be a virtue—contrary to what various religious and non-religious (communist, fascist, communitarian) preachers of the ethics of self-sacrifice had been saying for ages.

For people like myself, laboring under the twin tyrannies of tradition and socialism when I first read Rand in my native India, this is heady, empowering stuff. It supplies you with the moral and intellectual ammunition to stand up to those claiming to own a piece of you—family, community, and state—and take control of your own destiny.

But is self-actualization through productive work—the ultimate goal of this liberation for Rand—all there is to a happy life? Two centuries before Rand arrived on the scene, Adam Smith had already written The Wealth of Nations, a powerful treatise demonstrating why self-interest offers a more secure foundation for a rational society than a selfless dedication to the common good. But he also recognized in the very first sentence of the Theory of Moral Sentiments—his brilliantly nuanced, richly observed study of human morality—that: "How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it."

Smith spent his whole life examining and reconciling both the self-interested and the "other-interested" side of human nature. Rand, on the other hand, effectively put these two sides at war—limiting her usefulness in the fight to stop the growth of government in the bargain.

Rand sought to provide an individualistic and moral defense of capitalism—not a practical and collectivist one. She understood better than anybody that by unleashing the productive potential of individuals, capitalism delivers untold social benefits. But these benefits weren't the primary reason to defend capitalism, she insisted. Rather, it is that capitalism frees individuals—especially those with exceptional abilities, the Howard Roarks and the John Galts—to reach their highest potential.

By grounding capitalism and economic liberties in the psychic needs of individuals as opposed to, say, GDP growth, Rand avoided the collectivist trap under which individual rights are dependent for their legitimacy on serving some broader social purpose. However, this great virtue of her approach turns into a great vice in the context of her broader message, which seems to regard anything beyond a perfunctory interest in the well-being of others as vaguely illicit.

Unlike Smith, Rand failed to fully recognize that though human beings are not constituted for self-sacrifice, they have an innate need to see others prosper. Hence, there is something crabbed and withholding in her writings, as if she is going out of her way on principle to avoid giving any assurance that everyone in fact would be better off under capitalism. Other libertarian theorists—Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises—avoided this flaw. But Rand regarded their defense of capitalism as insufficiently pure. And to the extent that it is Rand's—not their—case for capitalism that sticks in the popular imagination, it might enhance—not diminish—the allure of government over free-market solutions to social issues such as health coverage for the uninsured.

Most people read Rand when they are young and are deeply moved by her, only to outgrow her by mid-life. Her adherents like to blame this on the moral pusillanimity and irrationality of the readers. But the real problem is perhaps with Rand herself: Her ideology of self-actualization speaks much more to the concerns of the young than the mature—again, because she ignores the "other-interested" side of human nature.

Consider what she wrote in her essay "The Ethics of Emergency": "The proper method of judging when or whether one should help another person is by reference to one's own rational self-interest and one's own hierarchy of values: The time, money or effort one gives or the risk one takes should be proportionate to the value of the person in one's own happiness." This statement certainly doesn't preclude helping others so long as they are important to us. But it doesn't tell us whether we should make them important to us in the first place.

For example, under Rand's schema would a person who abandons some passion in order to look after an elderly parent have a higher or lower moral standing than someone who doesn't (assuming that the parents are equally worthy)? Will the former be happier? More at peace? Rand gives us no real reason to believe so. In fact, the distinct impression one gets from her work is that an individual's first duty is to cultivating his own passions rather than nurturing his interest in the flourishing of those around him (with the possible exception of one's romantic partner). No surprise then that the virtue of generosity or benevolence, though it has pride of place in the work of Aristotle—the only philosopher to whom Rand acknowledges any intellectual debt—occupies a second-class status in her own work.

The fact is that Rand gets harder to take as one grows older and concerns about those around us become more important than our own personal project of self development. The relentless, single-minded dedication to one's passions that Rand seems to favor requires a coldness of the soul, a narrowing of one's humanity—the natural interest in the fortune of others that Smith alludes to—that most people find is not exactly conducive to their happiness.

This has profound and unfortunate political consequences. On the practical level, it makes it difficult to build a strong and growing anti-government movement based solely on Rand's philosophy, because the older cohort of her followers is falling off on a regular basis. On the theoretical level, Rand's ideas offer no real possibility of developing robust civil society responses to address the needs of those down on their luck. It is difficult to imagine a Randian qua Randian, say, volunteering in a soup kitchen to feed the hungry, or even founding the Fraternal Order of Fellow Randians to provide free health coverage and housing to jobless and homeless Randians. Since misfortune and distress are a normal part of the human condition, a philosophy that offers no positive, private solutions to deal with them will just have a harder time making the case against government intervention stick.

Rand's resurgence is certainly a welcome antidote to the Big Government onslaught that the country is experiencing right now. In the age of bailouts, the world certainly needs to hear—loud and clear—her message of personal freedom as well as its corollary, personal responsibility. But if Rand is going to play a starring role in the long-term battle to defeat statist ideologies, rather than making episodic, cameo appearances, her work will require a radical overhaul. Ultimately, the best way to honor her is by making her cause succeed—even if that means jettisoning some of her intellectual baggage.

Shikha Dalmia is a senior analyst at Reason Foundation and writes a bi-weekly columnist at Forbes where this article originally appeared.

Advertisement

NEXT: Morally Hazardous Hikes

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. wow. Thank you. This article perfectly sums up exactly the problem that I have talking to many liberals who put up objectivists as the straw man whenever I argue against government interventionism.

    1. Wow, what crowds do you run in? Most liberals I’ve met either have no idea what Objectivism is or think the term “free markets” means a return to the robber-baron days of the early 20th century. And I live on the Oakland-Berkeley border, quite possibly the most lefty of all lefty places in the US…

      1. Re: Joe H,

        […] or [liberals I’ve met] think the term “free markets” means a return to the robber-baron days of the early 20th century.

        Our work is thus cut out for us, Joe: to educate these folk on the fact the so-called “Robber Barons” are either a modern myth (as in the case of Vanderbilt, Carnegie or Rockefeller) created by leftist historians ignorant of economics, or were the result of an immoral partnership between industrialists and government, in which case we’re no longer talking about free markets, but Corporativism.

        1. Viejo, my good friend, people here are too ‘educated’ to care about petty things like facts, logic and history.

          Who needs consequences when you can have ‘Change’?

          1. Ever read The Myth of the Robber Barons?

      2. “Still the question remains, if she is so influential, why are we on the brink of socialized medicine today?”

        Ayn Rand is to blame for socialized medicine? That is, to put it bluntly, idiotic.

        “So where did she go wrong?”

        She didn’t. We did.

        1. No it isn’t. Purist, radical solutions are not politically pragmatic and often give credence to the alternate proposal which appears to the pragmatic middle of society to be more reality-based. Emotionalism is NEVER, EVER a good basis for creating policies, as libertarians, liberals, conservatives and populists have all proven. Pure libertarians come off as radicals and anarchists who can’t see the possibility of more values than liberty alone. Liberals who govern by their emotions usually end up enacting policies that achieve the opposite ends. Conservatives who govern by their emotions end up expanding government hypocritically to crack down on other peoples’ personal lives. Populists who fight free markets and push for protectionism usually end up worse off as a result of their shoddy economics. Only through economics and incrementalism can good policies be made. Luckily, most often that leads in a libertarian direction. Rand was as emotionalist as they come, and that is usually contrary to political ends.

          1. Your use of terms is illogical. You identify purism = principled stands = emotionalism, and then discuss people who govern by emotion and fail because they have no principles.

            If there is any thought in your post you have failed to articulate it. Try again.

            1. Sorry correction of last sentence:

              will suffice to that end with pragmatic efficiency.

            2. Hey, why don’t you learn reading comprehension?

              I said very clearly that those who put orthodoxical principles and emotion before pragmatism and economics will never achieve the political ends they desire. There’s no problem with principles or emotions themselves – it’s how you approach them that matters. Ideological rigidity and all-or-nothing demands don’t make any sense as far as making your principles attainable.

              The Libertarian Party is a perfect example of how radicalism continues to marginalize its adherents and good political ends are never reached – in fact in many ways going the opposite direction.

              1. So only people and groups that can please both sides and do not stick to anything they actually believe in can succeed?

                1. Since when does incrementalism = giving up the things they believe in? You can want goals as political ends but what you actually expect to achieve should be based in reality and not in your ideal utopian vision.

                  1. I might add that the socialists have been very successful over the past century at gradually moving society towards accepting socialism as normal and expecting the government to take care of everyone. Patience has paid off, and now 33 of 34 planks of the Socialist Party platform in the 30s are now here in America (with the last one likely about to be enacted). Libertarians seem like they would rather wait for either a second American Revolution or a total collapse of government instead of approaching the middle and gradually infiltrating the mainstream and both major parties with their ideas.

              2. I beleive the criticism is in your equating principles and emotions. There is no dependent relationship. Even pragmatism is independent as you can be a principled, emotional, pragmatist – as you apparently are.

              3. I beleive the criticism is in your equating principles and emotions. There is no dependent relationship. Even pragmatism is independent as you can be a principled, emotional, pragmatist – as you apparently are.

          2. Mr. Majors makes the point, which I agree with, that your statement fails for logic. Political pragmatism is exactly the problem. First – Liberals, neo-cons, Democrats and Republicans, populists are ethically pragmatic. Their positions are based on what will get them elected, what the latest backroom deal is, what they owe their campaign contributors etc. Second – It is not emotion but an unethical authoritarian world view that also guides their policy decisions. Face it, they simply DO NOT believe in freedom and liberty, and are probably afraid of it.

            “Pure libertarians” do see other “values” other than liberty. They understand that liberty is the only fertile soil in which those values can thrive. In the context of an unshakable commitment to liberty and freedom are “good policies made”. Then your “economics” will not be the socialism we suffer under now, and your “incrementalism” will always be toward freedom.

            In this context the other “values” such as doing good to your neighbor down on his luck, will thrive. If our goal is to spread misery, poverty and slavery to as many people as possible, then the path we are currently on will suffice to end pragmatic efficiency.

            1. “Their positions are based on what will get them elected”

              Well then, is it any shock to you that they actually DO get elected, unlike libertarians? They can actually achieve their political ends (as bad as they are) while we whine on message boards about how the country is going to hell in a handbasket and try to get ballot access for candidates that we know will garner less than 3% of the vote.

              Bravo! At least you can feel good about yourself that you were principled. That’s exactly my point about emotionalism.

              To be candid, the LP has FUCKED liberty in America because it has marginalized it and made it into something undesirable for average Joe – who wants a ban on private ownership of nuclear weapons and heavy machine guns, who likes the idea that every kid is guaranteed an education, and wants an enforcement mechanism to fight a chemical plant dumping waste into the local river. The purist libertarian would argue these things are immoral and would adamantly advocate for the exact opposite, because anything less would be a “violation of freedom.” The pragmatic libertarians might not agree with those things but would know to pick the fights they can win to at least move in the right direction, and save the other fights until they actually have some semblance of power and popular support.

              Dalmia’s point is that radicalism and purity are self-defeating and Rand’s rejection of economics and progress as irrelevant to freedom and capitalism only makes freedom harder to attain because it gives the opponents plenty of free range to invalidate freedom as impractical, unfair and dangerous.

              You’re right that an environment of freedom is where best policies are made. Unfortunately, by promoting marginal and radical policies not based in political reality, radical libertarians have enabled themselves to be easy straw men whom the other ideologies can use to dismiss freedom and condition the people to be wary of too much freedom. The Cato Institute on the other hand, has given respectability to libertarian ideals because they are politically pragmatic and reality-based. Along with Reason, they are the two best representatives of libertarianism, while the actual political party usually digresses into a pool of masturbatory, self-praising crap. When a moderate libertarian like Bob Barr is nominated or a PAC makes the platform more moderate, the radicals split the party and accuse the moderates and pragmatists of whoring out their principles. I’d honestly rather whore out my principles and compromise if it finds political success than feeling good about my purity in an echo chamber while the encroaching government grows and opponents to liberty tighten their grip on the power structure and our lives.

              1. Becoming a whore is a good way to get people to f* you, but don’t blame others who want to hold out for something more meaningful…

      3. I’m a phd scientist. But still, they rarely refer to objectivism as objectivism, but rather as ‘libertarianism’.

    2. This was likely the best critique of Rand I have ever read. It expresses my feelings towards her better than I have ever been able to express them.

      1. Toward her? Toward her work? Aim for clarity.

        And why do we care about your “feelings”?

        1. “Fuck you, Ayn Rand.

          Fuck you for turning some of the most open and interesting people I ever met into utopian dickheads.

          Fuck you for injecting them with a sneering sense of superiority, and with the tautological belief that anyone who didn’t “get it” was a jealous know-nothing?which, ipso facto, only proved that superiority.

          And fuck you for prose so bad that the only way to measure it is with a meat scale.

          There. I feel better.”

          From the end of that GQ article totally belongs below your comment and you guys have to leave it there right? Censorship bad and all? haha

          1. I don’t agree with the GQ article so much, although it did have a few valid points. I DO like much of her philosophy, and would say The Fountainhead is still one of my favorite books, recognizing that I don’t swallow her dogma hook, line and sinker.

            For such a believer in individualism, she sure did advocate conformity to her own philosophy and criticize those who have alternative viewpoints. Also, I don’t agree with her synopsis of human nature.

            Furthermore, aren’t politicians who consolidate power “acting in their own self-interest”? Aren’t the people in the interest groups, labor unions, political parties, corporations, etc. acting in their own self interests as they seek the taxpayer’s dime? If she finds this immoral, isn’t she contradictory?

            Rand’s belief that wealth results primarily from productivity is utter bullshit, as very often wealth is coerced from somewhere and in the case of corporations is protected by an artificial legal shield. Millionaire lifelong politicians profit heavily off of being destructive. Bernie Madoff profited off of fraud. CEOs often profits off of reckless decisions that they wouldn’t have made if they were actually liable and accountable for their actions.

            Also, the very existence of poverty and the high degree of inequality enforces the case for a government welfare state and redistributionism and thus are generally harmful for liberty.

            If we were a meritocratic and free society, I might actually embrace more of Rand’s philosophy as connected to reality. But reality has little impact on an ideologue…I deeply embrace the virtues of individualism on a personal level – unfortunately, collectivism is usually required to get anything done…

            1. Polticians who try to obtain things that don’t belong to them are dependent parasites in Objectivist philosophy and looked down upon.

              For such a believer in individualism, she sure did advocate conformity to her own philosophy and criticize those who have alternative viewpoints.

              Abusive ad hominem fallacy. Her personal behavior has no relevance to whether her philosophy is true. Also you might want to consider the circumstances of hers not being a very popular point of view, and she was basically a lightning rod that everyone attacked. Read her opinion on the death of Marilyn Monroe, and I think you can get some idea of how everyone was treating her and how much she hated the way people hated her: how she imagined Marilyn was treated was probably the way she was treated.

              Also, the very existence of poverty and the high degree of inequality enforces the case for a government welfare state and redistributionism and thus are generally harmful for liberty.

              See Money Speech.

              Rand’s belief that wealth results primarily from productivity is utter bullshit, as very often wealth is coerced from somewhere and in the case of corporations is protected by an artificial legal shield. Millionaire lifelong politicians profit heavily off of being destructive. Bernie Madoff profited off of fraud. CEOs often profits off of reckless decisions that they wouldn’t have made if they were actually liable and accountable for their actions

              See money speech again. If fraud was committed, Rand would have supported those people going to jail, and she certainly would have said Madoff is a worthless piece of crap.

              If we were a meritocratic and free society, I might actually embrace more of Rand’s philosophy as connected to reality. But reality has little impact on an ideologue…I deeply embrace the virtues of individualism on a personal level – unfortunately, collectivism is usually required to get anything done…

              Theory vs. Practice Dichotomy

              1. Of course personal behavior is relevant to her philosophy. The White House seems to like Mao’s philosophy and what do you evil evil libertarians say? look he killed millions of people. What is that an another abusive ad hominem attack? Why must I see “Money Speech”? couldn’t you who has read it just say what you took from it? I skimmed and assume it says something along the lines that money is only worth what you can get for it and you wont get anything for it if people get it for nothing? Anyway im off to buy some food stamps and god willing one of these days ill get me some of my very own Obama money!

                1. If Mao said two plus two was four, you wouldn’t question your own conclusion, would you?

                  1. Her opinion on Marilyn Monroe’s death is also very beautifully written and it almost makes me cry: http://www.capmag.com/article.asp?ID=3247

                    1. Never read this before, thank you.

                      http://www.capmag.com/article.asp?ID=3247

                      Her opinion on Marilyn Monroe’s death.

            2. “Furthermore, aren’t politicians who consolidate power “acting in their own self-interest”? Aren’t the people in the interest groups, labor unions, political parties, corporations, etc. acting in their own self interests as they seek the taxpayer’s dime? If she finds this immoral, isn’t she contradictory?”

              They’re actually not, because someone can come along and do the same thing to them. That is not selfish, that is parasitic, but there are always better parasites looking to feed on you.

            3. Wealth, money and profits are different things. You can not steal wealth until it has been created. It is created by production. None of this is particularly libertarian, nor Randian. but if you do not grasp the distinctions the remainder of your argument must go off the rails. The redistribution of wealth is the antithesis of production. Perfect equality is most closely acheived through total poverty. On one hand you are arguing that government must redistribute because capitolism results in disparate wealth – wealth that had to have been created by capitalism, and then you contradict that arguing that collectivism is necessary to get anything done.

  2. But is self-actualization through productive work?the ultimate goal of this liberation for Rand?all there is to a happy life?

    Why, yes. Yes it is.

    1. No. No, it isn’t.

  3. Rand, Rand, Rand, nothing but Rand.

    1. It will only get worse when a libertarian-leaning candidate whose name is “Rand” appears on the scene.

      Oh crap.

  4. “What’s Wrong With Ayn Rand?”

    Well for starters, she’s stopped breathing.

    1. But today we can rebuild her. Make her better than she was before.

      It’s the Bionic Rand.

    2. She’s just pining for the fjords.

    3. Charlaine Harris should re-animate her as she did Elvis.

  5. Excellent article.

  6. This is at least the sixth year in a row that either Reason or Liberty have declared that Rand is experiencing a revival.

    And that’s not counting the centenial, or the 50th anniversary of Shrugged.

    Do you think the 75th anniversary of We The Living (in 2011) will lead to another revival?

    1. Every day is Rand Revival Day from now on, just to spite you.

    2. If you read Dr.Burns book she argues that Rand’s sales always go up when an a more explicit advocate of statism is in office

  7. “they have an innate need to see others prosper”

    Actually she did realize this, that’s why John Galt is ‘idolized’ by pretty much every good guy in Atlas Shrugged. Everyone saw him prosper and were happy because they saw that. And not just monetarily, obviously, but intellectually as well.

    Good article, though. I would definitely prefer Ayn Rand articles over Sarah Palin articles. At least Rand was intelligent.

  8. I can see why Shikha won her award the other day. Excellent article.

  9. Most people read Rand when they are young and are deeply moved by her, only to outgrow her by mid-life.

    I think this is mostly because people don’t find out how uncool liking Rand is until they’re not 16 anymore.

    Personally, I read Rand’s books at ~15, and thought they were ok but way too long. Now that we’re living through Atlas Shrugged, I think somewhat more highly of her.

    1. I should add that her insistence on objectivity in stuff like aesthetics and morality is wack.

    2. I read them at 14 and only because my best friend made me because she wanted to talk to someone about them.

      1. Are you out there Emily Wilhoite?

        1. Hey Bruce, actually, I made you read them so you’d stop trying to get in my panties.

          1. Emily Wilhoite was a very interesting girl, fake Emily, who doesn’t need you besmirching her.

            I was gay, airhead, and was not interested in her panties. How many 14 year old straight boys have best friends who are female who they read books with, moron.

    3. Rand’s writing is long, tedious and awful, her ideology is rigid and objectivism is as much a religion as those she despised – and even more of a cult.
      Yet despite all of these flaws her books are still popular, fun, significant, and among the most important of the 20th century, and need to be read by more 50 years, preferably ones in washington.

  10. “Rand’s ideas offer no real possibility of developing robust civil society responses to address the needs of those down on their luck.”

    You’ve missed the point. In a truly capitalist society the number of people that really couldn’t take care of themselves would be tiny. Those could be helped by their families who would be able to afford it or by private charity.

    1. clearly you missed the point.

    2. And if there is no support from family or private charity? This claim is totally without factual or logical support, and seems to me more of a way to conveniently ignore reality.

      1. In other words, why not just have the balls to say that the unfortunate are SOL and that’s okay with you?

        1. That is OK with me. There, happy?

          1. Yes. Your philosophy is morally revolting, thank you for admitting it.

        2. Out of curiosity, what world do you live in where there’s no private charity?

          1. Of course there are private charities. But it’s a fantasy to think they’d take care of all the poor, aged, disabled, and sick in a society. You know that, but you pretend otherwise so you don’t have to admit that your philosophy is like the mentality of a teenage boy, that you don’t really give a shit about anyone but yourself, and you desperately want people to see that worldview as laudable.

            1. Wow, that is one angry comment. Congratulations, you have just made a sweeping generalization about everyone who believes that more government involvement is not the answer to solving the world’s problems. Nice ad hominem at the end there, too.

              Your own assumption that government “intervention” leads to less misery than the opposite(which we are considering an increase in private charity) is laughable itself, and has been shown to be so in major catastrophes throughout history. Hurricane Katrina comes to mind, for one…what organizations are still working there (actually doing work – filing paperwork doesn’t count)? That’s right…private groups…charity groups. It sure looks like private charities have done a much better job than the government at helping to better the lives of people (as if that was a surprise).

              Now, please go troll somewhere else.

            2. And also a fantasy to think government can take care of all the poor, disabled, and sick. I think you’re creating a strawman. No one is suggesting free markets will accomplish this. People do argue, among other things, that it does so better than government fiat. Plus it has the advantage of being morally superior in that it allows for more personal freedoms.

              1. well a true free market would also allow for a free market of values – so if you find it valuable to put your money to work helping the less fortunate, you would be free to do so with a limited burden of taxation or, worse, inflation.

            3. But Tony, we have poverty because your leaders have been sucking th blood out of society for decades, even centuries. You penalize the achievers and destroy capital accumulation, savings and investment, whether for an alleged social security trust fund or TARP bailouts.

              Then you blame the tax serfs and the critics of your fascism for the poverty and illiteracy you caused.

              We do need a form of political charity — we need citizens tribunals and guillotines to rid society of your fascist leaders.

              1. Tony doesn’t separate out those who actually NEED help, and those who refuse to work for a living.

                To him, they are one and the same.

            4. You’ve made my point. You don’t understand what capitalism does. There would be no poor because there would be more work than people to do it. There would be few sick or disabled because medicine unfettered by government would advance at a rapid pace to cure most ills. The aged would also be helped by medical advances so they would only require assistance at the very end of their lives. All of the problems you listed are CAUSED by government interference not solved by it.

            5. When I volunteered at city shelters, they were all private charity groups. I didn’t see any goberrment involvement.

            6. “But it’s a fantasy to think they’d take care of all the poor, aged, disabled,
              and sick in a society.”

              Tony forgot the key addendum…

              “…in a society where inefficient government competes with private charity by having access to an unlimited supply of money obtained at the tip of a gun and where expansionary money policies deplete foundations charitable funds through inflation, forcing them to consolidate into BINGOs to survive (or provide their services) – thereby becoming more inefficient themselves.

              Well so be gentle on the poor kid… He just didn’t want to write so much.

        3. Okay, they are shit out of luck. If you are concerned about them, I suggest you help them yourself, with your money and wealth, with your time and effort…I’m sure no one would stop you. But don’t presume for one moment to take the wealth and freedom of others to enable your “good works,” for you have no right to it. If your “morality” says you do, then you have the morality of a thhief.

          1. It sure seems like you don’t have a single fact to back up your assertion.

            If gover

            1. Here’s a fact for you: essentially there are only three ways to get anything in this world. One can beg it from someone; one can steal it from someone; or one can trade for it, produce it, create it, etc. oneself. The first two are either a beggar or a thief – and totally dependent on the third. The third does not need the first two – they are simply parasites. Which type of parasite are you?

      2. Re: Tony,

        And if there is no support from family or private charity?

        That’s a very unlikely event, but even if such was the case, nobody can save everyone, not even the coercive State – SOME people will, unfortunately, die alone, but only because people are not omniscient.

        1. I threw a starfish back into the sea, not because it mattered to all starfish, but because it mattered to that starfish.

      3. You conveniently ignore the reality that after half a century and trillions spent in the war on poverty we have more poverty.

        You conveniently ignore the fact that before the war on poverty family and charity did indeed address the problem better than now.

        If you policies had worked to do anything but waste resources and impoverish more people we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

  11. One wonders if Rand’s ideas would have been more successful had the Nathaniel Branden Institute remained in existence and maintained its rapid growth rate. Given the advance in communications and technology, perhaps the Atlas Society should explore ways of re-creating Objectivist lecture series in hundreds of metropolitan areas.

  12. And that GQ article was the typical shrill left-wing response to Rand. “I HATE YOU I HATE YOU I HATE YOU! IF YOU LIKE RAND YOU ARE A JERK OR A DUMB KID LOL. RAGE RAGE RAGE.”

    Also, I think it is hilarious that the left insists on blaming Rand for Greenspan, even though Rand thought fiat money was evil.

    1. Actually the GQ article was the usual middlebrow evasion of her ideas by way of descent into pop psychology and gossip. I have long found it amusing, as a gay man, that (until Thatcher and Palin anyway), Rand was the almost singular case of a woman being feared and worshiped by heterosexual men, both fans and critics, as a diva, much like Cher or Barbra among the fey.

      Now that being a cougar is considered something of an achievement, I am waiting for someone to point out (that GQ fag Andy whatever called her a bitch and a dominatrix) Rand was the first cougar of the modern era.

      1. Um, you do realize that Rand though gays were “immoral” and “disgusting”, right?

        1. Or is that one of those “out of context” things you’re willing to ignore?

          1. Wikipedia: Objectivism, Ayn Rand and homosexuality

            “Rand reiterated this position, then added that homosexuality “involves psychological flaws, corruptions, errors, or unfortunate premises”, concluding that homosexuality “is immoral, and more than that; if you want my really sincere opinion, it’s disgusting.”

            1. So she didn’t like homosexuals, does that mean that she wanted it to be outlawed?

        2. This is no reason to object her philosophy or hate upon her character. There’s much more to Bruce than his homosexuality, and there’s much more to Rand than her opinion on homosexuality.

          Being a faggot myself, I tire of people telling me that I should despise person X because he or she disapproves of my sexuality.

        3. So did practically everyone, and certainly in public, prior to the last century.

          So does most of the worlds population.

          So does all of Islam.

          What’s your point? One wrong idea means all your ideas are wrong?

          Well then SusanM.. you just invalidated all your ideas;)

      2. Straight women also find the “brilliant right-wing chick with a whip” appealing, but more as a motivational force.

        When I feel the need for a (non-literal) kick in the ass, I pop in my beloved DVDs of Margaret Thatcher destroying the opposition in Parliment or re-read Ayn when she’s really on a roll.

        There’s something about a woman preaching capitalism that makes me want to put down the bong and go build something. Oddly, guy preachers never have the same effect…

  13. I think her view on charity is misunderstood by reading only her books. Watching her old interviews on youtube gives a better understanding of her view:

    Basically it is that IF it gives you satisfaction to give time/money/food/etc to someone who needs it, then by all means, do so. Her concept of value is that individuals best reach their potential (in both personal happiness and value to society) if they have the opportunity to make uncoerced choices to allocate valuable time and resources to the people, institutions, or projects they believe will return value to themselves AND others in the community.

    The key is free choice, not self-benefit. Let’s say my old neighbor died of starvation after falling and breaking her hip. I know that even though no one heard her fall, the fact that no one was checking on her would cast a grim shadow of painful regret over the community…a palpable sorrow that, I agree with the writer, mustn’t be discounted as a natural human characteristic….and Rand does not discount it.

    One must read her definitions of value carefully…she is not always using exact English definitions when she talks about it, and that is frustrating, but if you listen to her interviews, she does not discount the value of uncoerced charity within communities. It is a real and significant portion of value in our relationships with others, to be taken into account when allocating one’s time and energy.

    1. This is correct. Most people do not understand this, including the author of the article.

      1. Yeah Rand only made it clear multiple times, several times in Atlas Shrugged alone.

    2. I had the very same impression from Rand’s interviews, K Wulf. My interpretation was that she was saying, first, don’t believe in “selflessness” because even if you help someone in need, you are doing so for you own reasons. Second, given the example of an elderly neighbor– if your productive time and talents could be used to advance your perfectly able self over someone who can’t accomplish anything, then guilt shouldn’t be the deciding factor, but the ability to recognize that one still helps the elderly neighbor out of selfish motives. Then those motives can be properly understood.

      Claiming guilt and obligation as one’s motive is an invitation for resentment. This is one of the central problems with many on the Left today–coercing people to be “do-gooders” is unnatural, insincere, and destructive. Yet, many people who have experienced a real benefit from helping their fellow man feel compelled to drag others kicking and screaming to the “do-gooding” water, only so they can label them as evil and insensitive if, out of resentment, they don’t want to drink.

      1. People are also often made to feel guilty for getting enjoyment out of doing charitable things.So actually the people who don’t enjoy it are making the true sacrifice, which is the ultimate goal in their eyes.

    3. I have not seen her interviews, but I am pretty sure there is a similar exposition on personal giving – probably somewhere in the midst of John Galt’s 300 page monologue

    4. ‘One must read her definitions of value carefully…she is not always using exact English definitions when she talks about it’ Perhaps that is why popular acceptance of Randianism is so scant.

  14. Tony, I see, continues to wallow along in his usual state of ignorance.

    There is nothing in libertarianism, or even Objectivism, that says you can’t support people just because you want to, because it makes you feel good, or even because it wins you the approval of others.

    So why wouldn’t people continue to support the less fortunate for these reasons, even in a fully libertarian or Objectivist society?

    1. Maybe they would. Still some would be out of luck through no fault of their own. Inequalities exist in nature. Relying on the hope of private charity is another way of saying a lot of people are SOL. I just wonder why you guys can’t just say that and instead rely on convenient fantasies and ignore reality.

      1. Re: Tony,

        Still some would be out of luck through no fault of their own. Inequalities exist in nature.

        Agreed. And?

        Tell me, how do these facts invalidate the argument in favor of free choice? Because I believe that is where you’re heading – correct me if I am wrong in my assumption of what you want to say.

      2. Gosh, Tony, it seems like even with gov’t intervention some people are still miserable. So who’s living in fantasies?

        1. The Tonys of the world believe that government is superior to all else, while at the same time vehemently denying any elitism in their mentality.

      3. But through a similar reality, we should also agree to say that simply by providing a government service does not mean you’re not SOL. We can pile on program after program, but it’s hard to imagine that we’ll ever remove that possibility. And in fact, in some cases, it would seem that the existence of some programs seems to _increase_ the changes of being SOL.

        1. Similarly, since we’ll never get rid of crime, we may as well just scrap the whole law enforcement thing.

          1. Maybe I’m having trouble remembering my Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau, but I thought that the role of government was to protect people’s lives, freedoms and property from other people, not to act as the Great Equalizer. After all, doesn’t the Great Equalizer violate people’s property, liberty and, yes, their lives when it engages in its Great Equalization schemes?

            Nevermind the fact that, despite the best intentions of the Great Equalizer when it does its thing, some people always end up more equal than others. Which leads us right back where we started, albeit much more worse for the wear.

            If it weren’t historically proven to be more than just the stuff of Grade B British political satire, it might actually be funny…

            1. very well said

          2. Your analogy is inexact,though you will be conceptually unequipped to understand why, Tony.

            Police and law offered by the state monopoly probably do do very little to reduce crime, which is much more affected by things like locks, alarm systems,and private fire arms ownership. Just as for centuries the actual defense of the US was mainly provided by oceans, and the military was adding very little, as was shown on 9/11 when we discovered that even the Pentagon was essentially unprotected.

            Likewise all your schemes for state provided welfare and education have mainly bled trillions out of the economy that, if left as capital accumulation,would have raised the marginal productivity of labor and hence wages. Not to mention how your state schools have created generations of permanently illiterate and unemployable lobotomy cases stripped of their humanity, while simultaneously being the engine of class and racial residential segregation, thereby moving jobs away from the poor.

            You really should off yourself Tony,if you are concerned with the plight of the poor. Just strap on some C4 and take out some of your masters in the tax predator ruling class when you go.

            1. As to Tony’s attempt to argue that the government protects us from crime, there is mounting evidence it cannot even protect itself:

              http://www.telegraph.co.uk/new…..s-ago.html

              Fort Hood shootings: FBI given gunman’s name six months ago

            2. How can I possible respond to people who think that door locks and private guns prevent more crimes than a law enforcement apparatus? How nice it must be to have a philosophy that fits every circumstance merely because you feel free to just make shit up.

              1. How can I possible respond to people who think that door locks and private guns prevent more crimes than a law enforcement apparatus?

                Actually locked doors, private guns, etc. do prevent more crimes than law enforcement officers. All the cops in the world can’t keep you from being murdered or robbed – and most cops would be the first to tell you that.

            3. “Police and law offered by the state monopoly probably do do very little to reduce crime, which is much more affected by things like locks, alarm systems,and private fire arms ownership.”

              This is fucking stupid. Why would a robber give a fuck about locks and alarms if they weren’t afraid of getting arrested? Agree that guns are a big deterrent, but dismissing law enforcement as being marginally important in the deterrence of crime is flat out dumb.

              Somalia = libertopia.

          3. I’ve heard this ridiculous argument from right-wingers who use it to justify their staunch support of the War on Drugs
            – and from a few idiot left-wingers who support the same failed War on Drugs.

            “Duh, if we’re going to get rid of the laws on drug use, we might as well make murder legal, duh.”

            My God, some people are stoopid.

      4. Americans donated $295 billion to charity in 2006. That’s $1,000 for every person in the country. And that figure would undoubtedly be much higher without the high level of taxation we have.

        1. BP, the real number is probably much higher. Wouldn’t you agree given that there is no reliable way to measure the entirety of charity?

      5. Still some would be out of luck through no fault of their own.

        Being such an asshole that no one would be willing to help you is a fault.

      6. To you because some of us are out of luck because no fault of our own, that makes it ok to make sure others are out of luck through our fault.

        Violence begets violence. And your attitude just excuses the plutocracy’s preemptive violence of manipulating you into giving the government, which they control, more power, to keep you caged.

        You give them power and ethical justification to treat you as the livestock you so yearn to be.

        So long as you justify your fantasies of theft, you may be sure they will always be sure that you are the prey and they are the predator.

        You would do it to them if you could.. so you must never be allowed to.

        But yeah.. Soros is your bud;)

        Conservatives barely understand they are slaves.

        Progressives understand, but they have Stockholm syndrome. They identify with their captors.. want to be them.

        Libertarians understand but do not want to be the captors, they want to end slavery altogether.

  15. “What’s Wrong With Ayn Rand?”

    That hat, for one thing.

    But yes, recent events are making Atlas look rather insightful.

    1. Are you kidding BP? She’s rockin that hat.

  16. This is an essay that is way overdue. Thank you, Shikha Dalmia.

  17. IIRC, David Kelley (sp?) and his group discuss “benevolence” – giving to others without any specific quid pro quo in mind. However, the Objectivist orthodoxy views them as apostates.

    1. I don’t think recognizing benevolence and magnanimity as minor virtues is the dividing line between the Ayn Rand Institute and the Atlas Society. I think most ethical egoists and eudamonists from Aristotle on down have recognized non-altruistic,non-self-sacrificing charity as a minor virtue, but not as the justification for one’s existence or the rationale for schemes of state slavery or a license for cannibalistic envy.

      1. IF giving to charity with no benifit to yourself is a virtue then surely the the greatist virtue of them all is to give to a charity that activly HURTS you. That level of charity only allows slaves to be saints.

  18. Somehow I seem to remember already doing this thread once before. Now I know I’m getting into middle age here and maybe the memory isn’t what it used to be. But didn’t we do this article just a couple of days ago?

    1. No, the Large Hadron Collider went online and you’ve hurtled back in time two days to when you first saw the article.

      1. Aren’t you confusing that with the Large Hardon Collider?

        1. “FlashForward” is a good series. It’s fun to watch Johnny Cho make out with Gabrielle Union

  19. Like many articles about AR, this one makes a number of assertions that are false. They rely on a confused conception of “selfishness” as advocated by Rand.

    There’s nothing about AR’s conception of “selfishness” or “egoism” that entails “narrowing one’s humanity” or having “a coldness of the soul” toward other people. What it entails is two points: First, a conviction that your highest value is your own life and your moral purpose is the rational achievement of your own values. Second, a conviction that this is true for everyone else as well, which is the basis of trade.

    Of course, that doesn’t preclude wanting to see other people prosper, pursuing a variety of relationships with other people, or helping other people in cases of accident or misfortune. It does preclude using the problems of some people as a moral weapon against others to induce guilt and extort values. That’s the real “narrowing of one’s humanity.”

    1. Well of course as Rand herself said, following the few ethical egoist and eudamonist writers before her, first you have to define selfishness, flourishing, and the best life.

      She doesn’t just accept the definition of selfishness provided by the altruists (Christians, Moslems, Marxists etc). Curiously, if you look at what THEY consider selfishness to be, those urges and lusts they attribute to us all that only Christ, Allah or the State keep us from giving in to, what a person really wants to do,according to them, is be a gluttonous,filthy, serial killer child rapist. So apparently that is what they all really know they want to do, the richest life they can imagine, and only their allegiance to the state or to religion prevents them from being “selfish”.

  20. Well put, JT. Shikha Dalmia is rather clueless. This hackneyed statement proves it:

    “Most people read Rand when they are young and are deeply moved by her, only to outgrow her by mid-life.”

    “Most”? Speak for yourself, Miss Dalmia.

    1. Yes Dalmia’s logic is a little lacking isn’t it.

      Most people are only passionately moved by something they read, whether it is Ayn Rand or Mary Daly, Karl Marx or Tolkien, “Harry Potter” or JD Salinger, when they are young. People grow out of passions,in general, which is an issue of biology,endocrinology, gerontology. It isn’t Rand specific.

      1. Someone forgot to tell Margaret Thatcher.

  21. are you attacking Ayn Rand personally or the philosophy she created? because her philosophy says that if helping others benefits you then it is in your rational self interest to do that as long as you are not sacrificing taking care of yourself first.

  22. “Surely, if she [Rand] had witnessed the events of last year?the government bailout of banks, the takeover of auto companies, the looming socialization of health care?she’d be wondering where she went wrong.”

    Huh? Where she went wrong? Blaming the messenger is about as lame as it gets.
    Massive reasoning fail, Miss Dalmia. You’re a hack.

    1. In her defense I think she meant where she went wrong in failing to persuade people of the intellectual bankruptcy of late stage disaster statism. But both Rand, and her tutor on this subject, Mises (in “Interventionism”) wrote on how statist failures are always used and Rahmian opportunities to call for more state power to solve the problem,in an ever downward spiral.

      1. This is a very good point.

  23. “Hence, there is something crabbed and withholding in her writings, as if she is going out of her way on principle to avoid giving any assurance that everyone in fact would be better off under capitalism.”

    You see this around here sometimes, that the libertarian idea of freedom is so good that it would not matter if adhering to it would produce a society that on average has less human hapiness and more human suffering than not adhering to it, we are still morally compelled to follow it. That’s a startingly anti-human philosophy truth be told, as it treats human welfare as irrelevant to “justice.” Any philosophy which does not measure the good or the just by reference to how the humans at issue are actually doing is pretty nuts.

    1. You are not attending to what she is saying MNG. Rand is saying that no individual’s life is to be justified by whether he or she helps others (by some community or state defined standard). She is rejecting your utilitarian view that in principle you could sacrifice an individual, whether it be tossing a virgin into a volcano to make the community less fearful of the gods or executing someone who probably committed a crime in order to scare people into obedience or enslaving a medical professional to perform slave labor in a clinic, because it would make someone else “better off” (albeit as a member of a slave society)

      1. I vote we toss Tony into the volcano – even if he’s not a virgin. 😉

      2. Whatever Bruce. I still submit that a philosophy which can hold one society with more human suffering in it up as morally better than another with less is one that is anti-human. Rand’s philosophy can get you there as Dalmia astutely notes. A society with one Atlas shrugging and prospering and everyone else in misery can be prerred to one in which that Atlas is “enslaved” but overall less misery abounds. Some idea of “fairness” or “justice” apart from human welfare becomes the measure of goodness, and that is anti-human.

        1. Do you realize your argument could be used to support slavery in the pre-Civil War South?

          A society with *one individual* enslaved to others to provide their health and happiness is unjust. You need to turn around your Atlas analogy and look at it from the point of view of the individual enslaved.

          1. “Do you realize your argument could be used to support slavery in the pre-Civil War South?”

            How so? The system of slavery in the pre-Civil War South entailed a huge amount of misery. It certainly wasn’t offset by the benefits to a very small few from the slavery (the ratio of slave to slave holding white tipped heavily towards the former). That system would rather easily fail the utilitarian calculus you mention.

            You’re on more interesting grounds when you posit a very, very small minority being enslaved which in turn provides significant increases in welfare to everyone else. Of course this would suck from Atlas’ perspective, but what kind of morality says “what counts is only the welfare of Atlas’?” Certainly if human well being is the measure of the goodness of a society’s set up, and I submit any other view is anti-human (if not human well being, then what I ask?), then all human welfare should be counted. So yes a society in which 2% of the population is “enslaved” but in which the other 98% are well off is better than one where 2% of the population is unrestricted and the other 98% are in misery. Any other view would be an odd one indeed, I’d love to hear its justification…

            Of course you would have to show that there was no system where the welfare of the 2% could not be increased while maintaining the welfare of the 98%. If such a thing would be possible then it would not only be morally preferable to the 2% enslaved-98% well off example, it would be morally commanded…

            1. I submit that the neat thing about market set-ups is that the 2% usually do great while the 98% are indeed better off…But note, where I depart from folks like Rand is that if and where a restriction on the 2% is optimally offset by an increase for the 98%, then it is just. But then again, I think human welfare is the measure of how good a set up is, not some airy-fairy notions of “justice” divorced from how actual human beings are faring…

            2. You are correct that there were more slaves than slaveholders, but there is no substantive difference between your argument here and a pro-slavery argument. The only difference is the relative proportions of people involved. If 51% of people want to enslave 49%, would that be ok from your point of view? Where would you place the cutoff percentage for having a good society?

              The problem with your argument is that you are looking at the society as a whole and ignoring the particular individuals involved. You can’t optimize the well-being of a large number of people in the aggregate and think that it is just to ignore individuals in the particular. Which individuals will have to be sacrificed to serve as a means to your ends?

              Which philosophy is anti-human when you actually have to consider the idea of enslaving a powerful individual to serve the well-being of others in order to remain consistent?

              The question is not “What kind of morality only looks at the welfare of Atlas?” You are ignoring the *immorality* of those who want to enslave him. If he refuses to be enslaved, and they are destroyed as a result, it isn’t his fault — they defaulted on their responsibility to take care of themselves, instead of enslaving him in the name of their own “happiness” (though people who are made happy by exploiting other people are a strange bunch).

              There’s no such thing as a free lunch — no one is entitled to live off the abilities of a powerful individual merely because he exists. How *could* that be so? The goodness of a society is measured by the extent to which it embraces the principle of justice. A society can’t guarantee happiness or fairness because a society is not a God granting wishes. If 98% of people are unhappy because they have embraced a self-destructive philosophy, would that create an obligation on your part to serve them until they are happy, because they are so much more numerous? This is the principle that your argument ignores.

              It’s a mistake to think that you can even try to optimize happiness in the aggregate. How do you know what emotional state people are in? There is a totalitarian presumption underlying it that you can even presume to know such a thing. If you are moved to optimize happiness in the aggregate, you will constantly be looking for more individuals to sacrifice to further your abstract (and anti-human-in-particular) goals.

              1. “but there is no substantive difference between your argument here and a pro-slavery argument. The only difference is the relative proportions of people involved.”

                But that is substantive, because the substance of my stance is that the calculus itself is what makes something just or not. Things are not “just” in and of themselves, they are just in relation to the consequences they create for human beings.

                “Where would you place the cutoff percentage for having a good society?”

                That point in which the optimal aggregate welfare is achieved.

                “The problem with your argument is that you are looking at the society as a whole and ignoring the particular individuals involved.”

                Of course, every human being’s welfare is to be measured and counts. You disagree?

                It’s certainly not anti-human to say that every human being’s welfare counts when judging whether we have a just society or not.

                See, you see “enslavement” as inherently wrong apart from its consequences on actual human beings. I measure any “enslavement” as I would any other action: it’s good if it maximizes aggregate human welfare, it’s bad if it doesn’t.* For you to argue otherwise is to argue that enslavement (or anything else for that matter) is wrong APART from its consequences on human beings (which is anti-human) or that every human being’s welfare should not be counted or at least not equally (which strikes me as bizarre; I would ask, why should that be?).

                *(btw as I noted above it’s hard for me to conceive of a situation where actual enslavement would produce that optimal result)

                1. Your argument is still a pro-slavery argument. The slaveholders didn’t use utilitarianism to justify their arguments, yes, but there is no difference in the conclusion you reach.

                  “For you to argue otherwise is to argue that enslavement (or anything else for that matter) is wrong APART from its consequences on human beings (which is anti-human)”

                  You seem to be reaching the conclusion that because I support an abstract principle I am somehow anti-human, despite the fact that the principle I am supporting, which is human freedom, is pro-human. You are arguing that holding abstractions is anti-human. You are saying that because I don’t look at the consequences of an action, I don’t actually care about the effects and that’s the only methodology of reasoning that leads to pro-human results.

                  Well, you’re wrong. I can consider slavery in the abstract, and what makes it wrong is its violation of the individual’s rights. You are ignoring the consequences of its effects on particular individuals in favor of the aggregate. Yes, I consider slavery wrong. Your assessment is somewhat correct in that regard, but this doesn’t hinder my argument. Just because I don’t use your consequentialist reasoning doesn’t mean I am anti-human. In fact, your method of reasoning is anti-human because you don’t believe in individual rights, only as a means to an ends of other individuals, whereas I believe in individual rights.

                  Human beings have to use abstractions to understand the world. Without an abstraction, people are only able to approach each situation without any understanding learned from previous situations. With your methodology you reach conclusions like “Free will is anti-human. We have to look at the consequences of free will on the happiness of people involved.” This is a contradiction; how can you be truly happy without free will? How can you be happy when you’re enslaved?

                  As to the substance of your argument, you seem to think it’s ok to look at everyone else’s needs and ignore the needs of Atlas. Moreover, the people who would elect to enslave Atlas are anti-human and they don’t deserve happiness. That’s the principle of justice you have ignored. I rest my case that your argument is anti-human.

                  1. The slaveholders of the pre-Civil War era did not make such a utilitarian argument probably because the calculus would surely turn out against them, as I noted.

                    “You are ignoring the consequences of its effects on particular individuals in favor of the aggregate.”

                    And you are ignoring the effects on all individuals to focus on its effects on a few. Why?

                    “you seem to think it’s ok to look at everyone else’s needs and ignore the needs of Atlas”

                    Nope, the Atlas’ count. But if they are a minority their needs are easily outweighed. Why do you count their needs as above those of the majority?

                    Look, would you say a society with less coercion but more overall human misery is a more just one than one with more coercion and less human misery? If your answer is yes then you are anti-human, because you derive justice apart from the actual well being of human beings, the individuals in the society. You don’t value individuals, you value some airy-fairy idea of “justice” or “human freedom” divorced from (and even in spite of) the well being of human beings. It’s I that respect individuals, it’s just that I consider each individual and their well being as important. That’s how we can value the individual human, to weight every single one of them, to weigh their well being equally.

                    1. You are the one who said you would support the slavery of one individual if the circumstances ultimately led to more happiness for others. I have to give you hand: it’s not many people who would maintain their consistency in the face of such a morally abhorrent conclusion. It either shows your devotion to reason or depravity. I hope and will assume the former.

                      “Easily outweighed” = ultimately unimportant. As you can probably tell, I don’t agree with you on that point. If people have rights, they should be respected, for your benefit and theirs.

                      You are drawing false conclusions from my premises. You think because I say that it’s not ok to sacrifice the human happiness of some to others that I don’t care about the actual state of society (rephrasing what you wrote a little). I don’t believe the wider social engineering that seems to underlie your worldview is moral. I’m an individualist. Each individual is responsible for his own happiness and ideally to work peacefully with others to attain his own happiness. No one can make someone else happy, so how can anyone be responsible for optimizing others happiness? How can we make that a general principle when it isn’t applicable in any particular case?

                      You may like to paint with a broad brush and say, “If you aren’t consequentialist like me, then you don’t care about real humans, therefore you are immoral!” There’s a few problems with that argument.
                      First, I never said that my beliefs only apply in some abstract universe besides this one. In that sense your argument is a strawman argument: I (and Rand as well) believe the principle of individual rights applies in this universe, not some Platonic ideal.

                      Second, you are making the same conclusion you accuse me of making. You claim I don’t care about real humans, but you don’t care about real humans: you only care about what comes out of your calculus. If your calculus tells you that humans must be sacrificed, then they must be. So how can you accuse me of being immoral when you are doing what you claim I am doing?

                      The difference between us is that I am focused on humans in particular. You think because I am not focused on humans in the aggregate that I am not focused on humans at all, because according to your moral premises that is the only thing that is real or matters for you, and therein lies your mistake. It’s a cognitive error to focus on human in the aggregate without focusing on humans in particular, because humans in the aggregate do not exist. Only individuals exist.

                      In short, unfortunately your philosophy is a human butcher shop waiting to sacrifice people for the greater good. When it’s done with one victim, your calculus moves on to the next, until the whole world is consumed.

                      So I hope you can appreciate the irony of calling my beliefs anti-human.

                      So let’s come to that last question:

                      “Look, would you say a society with less coercion but more overall human misery is a more just one than one with more coercion and less human misery?”

                      I assume you mean that there would be a direct trade-off between coercion and misery, such as in Atlas Shrugged when Galt is imprisoned and coerced. You are arguing that in this circumstance it would be better that Galt should be enslaved. And if I say that Galt shouldn’t be, you will say I am anti-human because of the benefits he could bring in alleviating the suffering that occurs in Atlas Shrugged.

                      If someone is coming at you with a knife, you don’t engage in a utilitarian calculus to determine whether defending yourself is a moral action. And you shouldn’t engage in such a calculation if it’s even a million or billion people. Because (Objectivist principle coming up…) your life is the root of all value and morality for you, and if you are not alive or free anymore, then nothing is of value anymore. That isn’t anti-human — it’s the opposite.

                      Objectivist philosophy recognizes that this applies not just in Galt’s case. Moreover, it recognizes that it’s not to your benefit to enslave Galt. James Taggart, the character who most wanted to enslave Galt, ended up destroying himself as a result.

                      Your philosophy doesn’t embrace any principles except the greatest happiness principle, so you have no means of performing any judgement as to the desirability of the happiness of particular people. Osama bin Laden’s happiness must be entered into your calculus despite his depravity. Many people might regret his destruction, so it could be the U.S. should grant him a pardon according to your calculus. And you have no way of assessing the depravity of those who would enslave others: their happiness must also be entered into the calculus despite their immorality. That is unjust and is the major flaw in your philosophy.

                      It has also inhibited your understanding to the point that you don’t understand how I can stand by a simple abstract principle like “Slavery is wrong.”

                    2. “If your calculus tells you that humans must be sacrificed, then they must be.” If they must be to save MORE humans that would be sacrificed if the former were not, then yes. That’s because my ethics is pro-human, I want to minimize human misery. You seem to say that even if MORE human beings will be harmed by not sacrificing than by sacrificing you are against it. Why? Because of “rights”? Well, your “rights” are obviously divorced from the consequences to actual humans. Because of “individualism?” Well, yes, individuals are sacrificed, but you are willing to let MORE individuals be sacrificed and call it “just.” So you’re actually anti-individual…

                      As to your Objectivist nonsese in the last few paragrahs. Of course your, and my, life is important and counts. But when you are weighing what is the right thing to do or who to save, why should your life count more than anothers? For instance, say you could save two lives by sacrificing yourself. How in the world could it be moral to choose yourself. Yes, yes, your life is yours etc., but that’s simply unimportant. If two people were tied to a traintrack and one person was tied to another, and an unstoppable train was hurtling towards the switch and you were the switchmen, what would be the right thing to do? Throw it to save the two or the one? Why of course if you value humans or individuals it would be the former (you save two humans and two individuals rather than just one). Now, if it was you on the track and two on the other and you could reach the switch, would the right thing to do be any different because “your life is yours, blah, blah blah?” Of course not. Rand is actually quite a lightweight in this area, basing her philosophy on an easily dismissed foundation like this…

                    3. Forgive me for not mentioning explicitly before that I understand that you think Galt or Atlas’s interests have to be considered in your calculus. I know that you think it requires including the suffering and happiness of all people. My argument is that your inclusion of them in the calculus doesn’t give you a moral pass to do whatever your calculus tells you is right. According to your philosophy the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and that has been the aspect of it that I am emphasizing and attacking.

                      As I said before, it is you who are actually divorcing principles from people. My individual rights principles are firmly attached to the humans I am talking about. You are divorcing a different principle. You call it “consequences,” but the meaning is actually closer to “consequences in the aggregate,” because you have to disregard consequences in particular to reach the conclusions you reach. As I wrote before, humans in the aggregate do not exist, so it is your philosophy that is ignorant of actual humans. That said, your philosophy doesn’t actually recognize consequences in particular as something that can be morally wrong. Because your philsophy derives the concept of “morally wrong” from “consequences in the aggregate”, so the only way to look at something morally wrong for you is aggregately. So it could be you don’t understand what I am saying and that you are incapable of understanding it with your basic premises, unless you try to see it with different principles instead of incessantly arguing about your own.

                      As to your Objectivist nonsese in the last few paragrahs. Of course your, and my, life is important and counts.

                      Well, which is it? Is it nonsense, or is it “Of course, your and my life is important and counts?” You’re starting to embrace contradictions. You’re trying to have it both ways: you want to be someone who respects your own and my lives, because that’s just the normal background moral assumption we all make. But you are not that person because you think you must sacrifice yourself and others if your calculus requires it. Your life doesn’t have any intrinsic value for you: the value can only come from the calculus. Which is why you will say that if you can save two people but sacrifice yourself, you must.

                      Objectivism would say you shouldn’t sacrifice yourself unless the people you are saving are more valuable to you than your own life. That’s not nonsense, that’s what rational people agree with.

                      Rand is actually quite a lightweight in this area, basing her philosophy on an easily dismissed foundation like this…

                      Forgive me, but this sounds like a massive hand-waving conclusion unrelated to anything, and I doubt if this is an honest estimation of her work — it seems more likely you are emotionally driven to make this judgement because you disagree with her for whatever reason. You haven’t articulated a convincing argument demonstrating why her work in this area is so weak. Having made this kind of weak statement, I suggest you may want to review her work again to get a better argument against her, or change your mind about her work. Or give up arguing about her altogether.

                    4. “As I wrote before, humans in the aggregate do not exist, so it is your philosophy that is ignorant of actual humans.”

                      Haha, now who is not recognizing abstractions? Look, the aggregate is simply adding up all of the individuals and taking ALL of the individuals whom an action effects into account. That is recognizing individuals, each one. Again, if I throw the switch to sacrifice one individual to save two individuals have I “denied the individual?” OF course not, I just realized that saving two individuals is better than one.

                      “Is it nonsense, or is it “Of course, your and my life is important and counts?”

                      Your and mine life count, but they count no more than any other life. How could they? Again, if you had one person on the track and two on the other and you were the switchman and either one or two were going to die, then what is the right thing for you to do? Obviously it is to throw the switch so the one dies and save the two. Now, if you are the one how does this change? Sure, you can say “well, it’s my life and my life is special to me blah blah”. Of course it is. But those other two people’s lives are special to them. So how can you justify saving two to one in the first situation being right but not doing so in the second situation being right?

                      Really, please start your next post by answering the question: if you are the switchman what would be right, to throw the switch so the train hits the two people or the one? What rational human, individual loving person would say the one? Now, if you were the one AND the switchman how would you justify not reaching the same conclusion?

                    5. As to dismissing Rand, well, she would say you should throw the switch to save yourself for the same reasons you seemed to above, “that your life is your life, it is the only one you have, blah blah blah.” And this is what (in part) makes her a lightweight, recognized as such in philosophy departments in colleges across the world, as it is easy to see how weak of an argument that is. Of course your life is your life and is special to you and is the only one you have blah blah. But those other two people on the track can say the same thing about theirs.

                    6. One last thing on this. Noted philosopher James Rachels has written quite extensively on Ethical Egoism, even discussing Rand specifically. You can find one of his best articles on this on Google Books (it’s an anthology which contains this article, for me it was the second item of the search a book called Moral philosophy: a reader) if you google this: Rachels, James. “A Critique of Ethical Egoism.” He describes the problem with this view probably better than I can…

                    7. And this is what (in part) makes her a lightweight, recognized as such in philosophy departments in colleges across the world, as it is easy to see how weak of an argument that is.

                      Argument from authority. This argument of yours is even weaker than your previous one. I am taking a philosophy course at a local college right now and I can tell you that the cognitive content of the arguments against Rand emanating from philosophy departments probably approach zero. There are many arguments against her philosophy I have read in my current textbook. In the chapter on ethical egoism the author can barely travel two sentences without issuing another logical fallacy such as begging the question (“Since selfishness is wrong…”), equivocations, or arguments from authority (“Most ethicists think…”) against ethical egoism and Rand in particular. This despite the fact those fallacies are described in the very same textbook! By using these fallacies, her philosophy is summarily dismissed and not seriously considered.

                      The reason is easy to see: Rand argues quite strenuously against government intervention in the economy, against tenure, against state-subsidized schools, against the leftist program wholesale. Her ideas endanger the gravy train of academic jobs, and this motivates leftist state-subsidized professors to oppose her philosophy as a matter of political self-preservation. It is to Ayn Rand’s credit that she never changed her philosophy to appeal to anyone, not even philosophy departments.

                      Furthermore, you shouldn’t rely on the opinion of so-called experts to form your opinion. You should use your own mind to think about whatever arguments there are and figure out if what is said is true. If you don’t do that, you aren’t thinking, and if you do, you would never make an argument from authority.

                      Look, the aggregate is simply adding up all of the individuals and taking ALL of the individuals whom an action effects into account. That is recognizing individuals, each one.

                      Your and mine life count, but they count no more than any other life.

                      Look at your second sentence and try to integrate that thought with the first one. The aggregate is adding up all the individuals, but you are not capable of viewing *this* individual any differently and disregarding his happiness based on his behavior. You still must consider the pleasure and pain of Galt’s enslavers or bin Laden. This is what leads you to be unable to agree with the principle “Slavery is wrong.” This is the major flaw in utilitarianism: it doesn’t have any understanding the concept of individual justice. This is what I mean when I say you are only capable of seeing the aggregate and are incapable of looking at individuals differently. Also, your own life isn’t any more important to you than anyone else, despite the fact that you are you and not anyone else.

                      Your entire argument so far is an instance of begging the question. You believe in your utilitarian principles of looking at the consequences and disregarding the principle of justice. Your concept of “morally wrong” is derived from this concept, so naturally when you encounter a different philosophy based on different moral premises, you reach the conclusion that according to your basic moral assumptions, because they disagree, that those philosophies are immoral. But this is based on your assumption that your moral premises are true: that we ought to look at things from a consequentialist point of view. So, your argument is contained within your premises: “If we look at things consequentially and assume that viewpoint is true, then we realize that any philosophy that doesn’t view things consequentially is morally wrong.” This is just repharsing the same argument and is thus begging the question.

                      You haven’t articulated a compelling argument as to why your moral premises are true. You appear to be incapable of considering things from a metaethically neutral standpoint. In other words, you aren’t asking yourself the question, “Are my premises true? Why?” Meanwhile, I’ve given several arguments as to why your moral premises are flawed which you haven’t even addressed:

                      – You cannot say slavery is wrong. You say Galt should be enslaved. This is morally abhorrent: a man should not be enslaved under any circumstances. Your response: “If that’s what the calculus says, it is right.” (You are just rephrasing your basic premises)

                      – Your philosophy is a butcher shop. When you’re done sacrificing one individual to others to maximize their happiness, you move on to the next. Such a philosophy leaves the world in ruins. Your response: nothing

                      – You don’t believe in the principle of self-defense in all circumstances. Your calculus has to be engaged and you are lead to the conclusion that Galt must not preserve himself and his freedom when millions of people want to enslave him. Similarly, you believe people should sacrifice themselves to save others. If a moral philosophy doesn’t believe in the principle of self-defense absolutely, it is wrong, because if you aren’t alive, you can’t engage in moral reasoning any longer. Also, lack of freedom is inimical to human happiness, and if your utilitarianism leads to a conclusion for a single person that his freedom must be sacrificed, it is sacrificing his happiness. Therefore, your utilitarianism is not a good philosophy for Galt. There is nothing particular about Galt. Therefore your utilitarianism is not a good philosophy for anyone. Your response: extremely weak logical fallacies used as attacks against Ayn Rand.

                      You could try addressing these arguments.

                      Really, please start your next post by answering the question: if you are the switchman what would be right, to throw the switch so the train hits the two people or the one? What rational human, individual loving person would say the one? Now, if you were the one AND the switchman how would you justify not reaching the same conclusion?

                      The answer is: it depends on the circumstances. If I know nothing about anyone, I would save the two people. If bin Laden is the one on the track, and I know nothing about the other two people, I would save the two people. If my wife or loved one is on the track and two people I know nothing about, I would save the one. If bin Laden and al’Zawahiri are the two on the track and one person I know nothing about, I would save the one. If bin Laden and another person I know nothing about are the two, and I know nothing about the one, I would save the one.

                      That is a credit to my humanity. It is discredit to yours if you do the same thing in all circumstances.

                    8. Like a lot of Objectivists you misunderstand the arugment from authority fallacy. It simply means one cannot conclude absolutely something is true because authority pronounces it so. It does not mean that the fact that most experts in the field say x is not strong evidence that x is so.

                      You don’t understand begging the question either. My argument is: the right action is that which maximizes overall human welfare. And then I simply apply that major premise to specific situations (minor premise). Please demonstrate how that is begging the question.

                      “If I know nothing about anyone, I would save the two people.”

                      So all things being equal you would save two people over one, even if the one were yourself. That’s the right answer, and one Rand was wrong on.

                    9. Philosophy is the science of thinking. If you refer to someone else’s thinking to support your argument without thinking, you are using an argument from authority, because you cannot incorporate their support into your argument without thinking and articulating what it is they said. This is different from other fields: in science, you can point to experts to support an argument. From the wikipedia page,

                      “On the other hand, arguments from authority are an important part of informal logic. Since we cannot have expert knowledge of many subjects, we often rely on the judgments of those who do. There is no fallacy involved in simply arguing that the assertion made by an authority is true. The fallacy only arises when it is claimed or implied that the authority is infallible in principle and can hence be exempted from criticism.”

                      But in philosophy, you must use reason. So your claim that expert philosophers say Rand’s philosophy is no good carries no philosophical weight, and is an argument from authority.

                      Also, you have failed to integrate my empirical evidence that these professors have ulterior motives.

                    10. You’ve answered yourself here…Philosophy is a field with experts, PhD’s, etc, and as you noted to defer to their expertise is, while not infallible, evidence that she is a lightweight.

                    11. And btw, do you know what the word empirical means? Because where did you put forward any empirical evidence of these professors having ulterior motives?

                    12. The fact that my philosophy textbook is loaded with numerous logical fallacies denouncing Rand’s philosophies, of the “methinks you doth protest too much” kind.

                    13. Philosophy is a field with experts, PhD’s, etc, and as you noted to defer to their expertise is, while not infallible, evidence that she is a lightweight.

                      Huh? I think you maybe misunderstood what I said. Or I miswrote what I meant. Or I am misunderstanding you now.

                      If you want to refer to other experts to support your philosophical argument here, you cannot do so without referencing the contents of their arguments. If you want to do so without referencing those arguments, you are making an argument from authority. That might be ok in other fields where those PH.d’s actually mean something. But in philosophy, if you do that, you are committing a fallacy. How or why should I give leftist Ph.D’s dominion over my mind?

                    14. Ergo, your claim that expert philosophers claim Rand’s philosophy is bad, is an instance of the argument from authority fallacy

                    15. You don’t understand begging the question either. My argument is: the right action is that which maximizes overall human welfare. And then I simply apply that major premise to specific situations (minor premise). Please demonstrate how that is begging the question.

                      Your “if your philosophy doesn’t deal with real humans..” argument is just a rephrasing of your basic principles. Explain how you’re applying it.

                      More importantly, you have not stood above your system and made a metaethical argument for your point of view. I am attacking your philosophy from outside your system, from outside Objectivism, from a metaethically neutral standpoint by referencing universals like appeal to sentiment and concepts which utilitarianism purports to optimize like happiness, and so far you have only attempted to defend it from within by basically asserting your premises are true and by using logical fallacies attacking Rand’s philosophy in response. In short, I am cutting at the root while you are dithering at the leaves.

                      “If I know nothing about anyone, I would save the two people.”

                      So all things being equal you would save two people over one, even if the one were yourself. That’s the right answer, and one Rand was wrong on.

                      No, sorry for misleading you, but I know a few things about myself, and I put myself in the category of “loved one”, who I would save in preference to two people. So I am in agreement with Rand on this question, I think (though I have never read her opinion on it).

                    16. Just wanted to explicitly clarify: I would save myself in preference to any number of people, unless my wife or other person more valuable to me than my own life were on the other end. Furthermore, I would save myself in preference to very large numbers of strangers, although as the number grows higher, let’s say it were all of humanity or a substantial portion, I might be driven to choose otherwise given my personal love for human civilization if it were threatened.

                    17. “If my wife or loved one is on the track and two people I know nothing about, I would save the one.”

                      I just caught this.

                      Why would it be right for you to save your wife over two people when you admit if you knew nothing about anyone the right thing to do would be to save the two?

                    18. Why would it be right for you to save your wife over two people when you admit if you knew nothing about anyone the right thing to do would be to save the two?

                      Obviously, because I would love my wife more than two strangers. But you are asking me what I would do. Now tell me why I am wrong, from a metaethically neutral point of view, without referencing your consequences principle.

                      (Btw, I am actually single)

                    19. Here is the neutral principle: that act which maximizes human welfare is the right one. That’s the major premise. Minor premise: saving two lives over one maximizes human welfare. Conclusion: Saving two lives over one is the right act. Where’s the question begging, eh?

                    20. You are changing the argument that I called begging the question out from under me. You were saying that Rand’s philosophy was anti-human because it doesn’t consider real people

                    21. You’re only pointing to Rachels because you can’t argue effectively enough against me yourself. Nevertheless, I shall proceed to dismantle some of his arguments as well. I won’t go into his technical work unless you effectively articulate it to me.

                      From my philosophy textbook, this is a summary of James Rachels point of view:

                      “How can I justify placing my interests above those of others if everyone has equal moral worth?”

                      Begging the question. If everyone has equal moral worth, than ethical egoism is false, but why should we say everyone has equal moral worth?
                      Bin laden and Galt’s enslavers shouldn’t be worth the same as any ordinary person. If I am the same moral worth as everyone else, than I can go down your self-sacrificial path and there is no moral value for me at all.

                      Also, as I said in my last post, you are you and not anyone else, so it isn’t obvious that everyone ought to have equal moral worth. Given the fact that I am a metaphysically different entity than anyone else (my consciousness is not anyone else’s), it seems likely that I should view myself morally differently than I view others.

                      Rachels also says that ethical egoism has a contradiction because it advises people to look after themselves and that can lead to conflicts of interest: what works for one person could be detrimental to another. He says this is contradictory because it advises one thing for one person and another for another:

                      “Consider the starving people we could feed by giving up some of our luxuries. Then should we care about them? We care about ourselves, of course—if we were starving, we would go to almost any lengths to get food. But what is the difference between us and them? [Ed: Rebuttal: I am myself, he is himself…] Does hunger affect them any less? Are they somehow less deserving than we? If we find no relevant difference between us and them, then we must admit that if our need should be met, so should theirs.”

                      The relevant question is: who should meet that need? Ethical egoism advises each individual to meet that need himself. There is no contradiction there. If you want to help someone else not starve, ethical egoism puts no obstacle in your path to doing that, but you are not obligated to do so. Rachels’ metaethical argument here proceeds from altruist premises. He ignores the fact that you are you. A is A. QED.

                    22. That everyone has equal moral worth is Rachel’s premise. Can you refute it?

                      Or in other words, what gives your wife or you special status so that you should be saved over the two?

                      Let’s not have any of that “I am I” nonsense, or this “my wife is special to me” since the same can be said of the two (for both individuals “they are they” and they may be someone’s wives and special).

                      Think of it this way, according to you everything being equal the right thing to do is to save two over one. But if the one is your loved one then the right thing to do is save one over two. Now, I’m watching the whole thing, how could I think you saving your wife over the two is right. Surely it’s wrong there. How can it be right for you, but wrong for anyone else, or how can what is the morally right thing to do hinge on the fact that you prefer one person over another? You reason like a racist. They would say “save one white person over two blacks.” When asked why they would say “white people are special.” But to anyone who doesn’t accept this premise, this is nuts. And why should I or anyone else accept “my wife is special” from you as justifying your saving one over two? We can’t. I mean what, do you everyone have their own morality? Quite the subjectivist you are!

                    23. That everyone has equal moral worth is Rachel’s premise. Can you refute it?”

                      It believe it is a moral axiom he assumes. How do you want me to refute it? I only offer metaethically that it’s probably not a good axiom because the fact that I am a different metaphysical entity from everything else might mean I am neglecting that fact if I treat everything the same ethically. If you assume his axiom, then ethical egoism isn’t true. But why should we assume it? Burden’s on you.

                      Let’s not have any of that “I am I” nonsense, or this “my wife is special to me” since the same can be said of the two (for both individuals “they are they” and they may be someone’s wives and special).

                      My point was that in order for Rachels’ argument to work, I have to be interchangeable with someone else. I’m not someone else. I’m myself. Therefore, his argument is absurd.

                      You may like to not draw distinctions between people, but you are neglecting the metaphysical fact that people are different. When you do that, you are making a metaphysical error, so if you base your ethics on that you are basing your ethics on an error.

                      I am myself is derivative from A is A, the metaphysical principle of identity. I am a different kind of metaphysical entity from others. It’s impossible to create an argument without the principle of identity as a premise. This differs from ethical premises, which are supposed to rest on top of metaphysical and epistemological axioms (that is true of Objectivism and utilitarianism). You may not like the phraseology because it sounds technical, but that has no impact on its truth value.

                      Quite the subjectivist you are!

                      Equivocation (and irrelevant personal attack). You don’t understand the subjectivity and objectivity being parlayed here. Every objectivist recognizes the axiom of consciousness and identity as true. That he recognized it for himself doesn’t mean he’s a subjectivist. You are just enjoying calling an Objectivist subjective and injecting an invective.

                    24. I am myself is derivative from A is A, the metaphysical principle of identity. I am a different kind of metaphysical entity from others. It’s impossible to create an argument without the principle of identity as a premise. This differs from ethical premises, which are supposed to rest on top of metaphysical and epistemological axioms (that is true of Objectivism and utilitarianism). You may not like the phraseology because it sounds technical, but that has no impact on its truth value.

                      Oops, I made a mistake strike out “This differs from, which”

                    25. You are denying a very basic aspect of human nature: that we don’t want the people we love to die. That is the principle which you violate. Therefore, your ethics is wrong.

                    26. Just wanted to clarify, only the parts in quotes are from the book, I wrote the rest of that.

                    27. “For instance, say you could save two lives by sacrificing yourself.”

                      If you really believed this BS you are spewing, you would not be posting here because you would have signed your Organ Donor card and offed yourself.

                      You can, right now, save probably 6 people by donating your organs to them. You are living a lie by staying alive.

                    28. First of all, at best you would be proving me a hypocrite, or a morally weak person, you would not disprove the assertion that one person who could save two by sacrificing themselves ought to. Secondly, people sacrifice themselves for two people all the time as an empirical matter. Does the fact they do so prove my point as you think the fact I don’t disprove it?

                    29. Its enough for me to point out the fact that you can not live by your calculus, and no one can, because to live by it and not be a hypocrite would require them to sacrifice their life and everything they have from day one. So if no one can live by your moral “ought” then what is the point of your theory of ethics no one can live by?

    2. If it would improve overall human welfare to kill any babies born with disabilities (which, let’s face it, it probably would), would that mean that we should not only do it, but force it upon everyone in society?

      1. How Spartan of you. 🙂

        Been thinking about your “irrational” idea from the other day. I think you’ve got a point…..

      2. Define “disability.”

      3. Hazel
        The welfare of disabled children counts in any utilitarian calculus, so I’m not sure it would improve overall human welfare to kill them. A disabled child may mean work for the parents, but the child will have a lifetime of possible welfare (many disabled people have satisfying lives) and the work done in raising one could well be conducive of overall human welfare (many people like the toil of taking care of something that needs it, in which case it is a pleasure not a pain; also even where it is not it can be seen as building character, people with character tend to promote human welfare better than folks without, therefore this is a good thing).

        As to forcing others to do so I am with Mill that as a general rule letting people choose situations that they conclude give them more pleasure than pain ultimately promotes overall human welfare, so my answer is no.

        1. The welfare of disabled children counts in any utilitarian calculus, so I’m not sure it would improve overall human welfare to kill them.

          Don’t think it would count in ANY utilitarian calculus, and actually people like Peter Singer (a utilitarian philosopher) have in fact argued for killing deformed children at birth. Anyway, after they are dead, they don’t count in the utilitarian calculation anymore.

          A disabled child may mean work for the parents, but the child will have a lifetime of possible welfare (many disabled people have satisfying lives) and the work done in raising one could well be conducive of overall human welfare

          Or it might not. Shoudl maximizing the overall *number* of human lifes count in the calculus? or the average *quality* of life?

          (many people like the toil of taking care of something that needs it, in which case it is a pleasure not a pain; also even where it is not it can be seen as building character, people with character tend to promote human welfare better than folks without, therefore this is a good thing).

          Not only does this contradict your theory that nobody would give to charity unless forced, it also raises the grotesque specter of imposed servitude as “characher-building”. Sorry, I find that abhorrent. You’re basically saying “We should keep disabled children alive because forcing others to care for them is good for their souls.” EEEEEW. Seriously, EEEEEEW.

          1. Where in the world do you get the idea that I think noone would give to charities unless forced? You’re confusing me with someone else I think.

            There are many reasons to keep disabled children alive, including the one I mentioned about the increased welfare the parents get from keeping having them alive and the increased welfare society gets from the character many parents get from raising them, but the main reason I’ve already stated: the welfare of disabled children counts. Most disabled children and adults lead fairly satisfying lives, to end their lives would be to take all of that welfare out of the world.

            I’m not sure of Peter Singer’s view on this so I won’t comment on it. Thankfully it’s not really relevant to how I see things. He’s a famous utilitarian but hardly the only one. Disagreement on this kind of thing exists even among the subset of people that are utilitarians in ethics.

            1. Oh great and wise MNG please share with us your utilitarian “calculus” formulas so that we can calculate precisely how to make more “happiness” and less “misery”. We meager folk could never be the judge of our own individual happiness; no, that would be ridiculous. Please great and wise MNG, tell me, am I happy?

              1. You do this everyday smartass. Every day people take into account how their actions will effect the well being of the people around them, calculating te trade-offs to ourselves and others.

    3. Hmm.. I agree with MNG. I do think that ignoring human welfare would be ‘pretty nuts’.

      That’s why I don’t understand progressivism which obstinately ignores the results of their own policies.

      I’m not a libertarian because I’m an idealist. I’m a libertarian because I’m a consequentialist (utilitarian), and I do want the greatest good for the greatest number as they decide it to be.

      That’s freedom.

      You on the other hand want some idealized good as you decide which never materializes in any case and is made demonstrably worse by the plans you impose.

      As a critique of Rand that’s accurate, but that same critique applies to you, more so, as you continue to have blind faith in a empirically bankrupt philosophy.

      But not to all libertarians are non-consequentialists. Hayek was arguably consequentialist. Hayekians tend to be consequentialists.. Rothbardians tend to be non-consequentialists.

  24. There are some misunderstandings of Rand’s philosophy in this article. Rand did not oppose helping people. She believed that helping people was generally *morally neutral*. However, if we believe the author’s misunderstanding of her philosophy, she would therefore have opposed people being nurses, doctors, and firefighters, and she did not.

    She would have said you can be a doctor, nurse, or firefighter and help people if that’s what *you* want to do, but that you shouldn’t feel obligated to do so and that you don’t have low moral worth if you don’t. Similarly, you shouldn’t give up your passion to help elderly people if it’s not what *you* want to do. Morally, the helping of others must be focused through the lens of selfishness, If you feel passionately about helping people, then that is an appropriate thing to do as long as you approach it selfishly, as you would any other occupation, and try to do the best job you are capable of. Helping others in that way is even morally positive because it’s fulfilling your true desires and central purpose.

    So what would the problem with not doing what you don’t want to do be, again…?

    The rest of this article is a shopworn cloth of Pragmatist apologia. The author doesn’t care whether what Rand said is *true*, only that Rand was unwilling to lie about her philosophy to appeal to more people.

    Let’s not quibble over such an unimportant thing like Truth, let’s just do *what works*. Let’s change what we think so we can appeal to more people!

    Nevermind that the truth is sacrificed in the process. That’s the exact reason why the “Republican revolution” was corrupted and defeated. Pragmatism isn’t practical.

  25. Rand has characters in her fiction who engage in genuinely charitable acts. It just isn’t made the justification for their existence.

    Thank you for not indulging in pop psychology and discussing her romantic life and actually sticking to her work and philosophy.

  26. I like how Tony seems to think that no one is shit out of luck in a welfare state. Make sure not to visit any housing projects, you fucking moron.

    1. …or Cuba

      1. Let’s not forget that for a communist utopia, East Germany was pretty rockin also…

        Hell, at least 25% of the “good” comrades were recipients of the state’s largess for all of their hard work in reporting all of those pesky thought crimes to the government.

        Plus all “good” comrades had access to universal health care, excellent state jobs w/benefits, single party rule, fine schooling, a centralized economy (which was the paragon of efficiency and transparency), and a kick ass wall surrounding Berlin which successfully protected them from all of the oppressive evils of capitalism.

        /sarc

    2. LOL – people in the USSR boozing themselves to death also comes to mind. What a “utopia”…..

  27. Since our current regime seems to have lots of Maoists we should give Tony his due. They never allowed too many people to be to SOL. Genocide cures high unemployment rates and lots of ills

  28. Moralizing is not a great way to persuade people. The argument that it’s not in one’s self-interest to plunder the rich is just not very convincing to most people. We need more empirical data. Fortunately, there are a number of large welfare-state experiments going on in Europe. It’s possible that 50 years or so will be enough time to gain enough data to settle the matter of whether or not the welfare state is sustainable and desirable.

  29. Wasn’t this article already posted the other day?

    My problem with Rand is that being perfectly, strictly, self-interested and rational all the time is a rather joyless way to live. Though the leftist ideal that your life is enhanced by serving others is equally stultifying.

    I do believe that Rand was right that people should live for themselves, but wrong that they should always behave in a rationally self-interested way. Sometimes irrational acts can bring extreme pleasure, even self-sacrificing ones. Any time someone declares that they would ‘die for’ someone or something, they are expressing that truth.

    The wierd thing is that although Rand’s characters are *just like* this – totally willing to make personal sacrifices for an ideal – her technical argument suggests that they shouldn’t behave that way. If John Galt was perfectly rational, he wouldn’t have turned down the job of central planner. Howard Roark would not have blown up his own apartment complex, or let someone else take credit for it, if he was behaving rationally in his own self-interest.

    1. Okay, now you have to help me follow you here.

      If John Galt was perfectly rational, he wouldn’t have turned down the job of central planner.

      How does that follow from Rand’s arguments about rationality?

      And maybe Roark wouldn’t have let someone else take credit for his work, but I don’t see why he wouldn’t (rationally) have blown up the buildings once they’d been bastardized.

      1. Actually is Alan Greenspan the case of the “Objectivist” who accepted the job of central planner? Thinking he would at least be better than someone who would use state power for naked political purposes.

        Look how that turned out.

      2. How does it benefit him to blow them up?

        Since nobody even knows he built them, it’s not like the sub-standard design is going to detract from his client list. Plus blowing them up causes him to risk prosecution.

        I have a hard time seeing why an objectivist would risk prison for an abstract concept like artistic integrity. I purely rational optimizer would be a perfect Machiavellian, it seems to me. They would not behave anything like Rand’s fictional heros. If Rearden was a perfectly rational optimizer, he would have been busy lobbying the state for protection, just like his competitors, instead of having a mere one man in Washington who is easily bribed to betray him. Rearden makes the obviously stupid mistake of assuming that others are as principled as he is. Again, not rational.

        1. I too have trouble sometimes reconciling Roark’s blowing up of the building. He didn’t sacrifice his life for his work though: he planned his “terrorism” carefully so he would have a large chance of escaping, and he calculated that the risk of years of prison was worth his artistic integrity. He wouldn’t care that no one knew he did the work, because that wasn’t why he was doing the work in the first place.

          I don’t think an Objectivist would be a perfect Machiavellian because Machiavelli advocated using people as means to ends, and the Objectivist philosophy doesn’t embrace manipulating people through guile, because that creates a dependence of you on them.

          1. he planned his “terrorism” carefully so he would have a large chance of escaping

            I mean, escaping through acquittal.

    2. “Weird” is spelled like this. I take great joy in this selfish act of correcting your spelling even though I am helping you, since I enjoy reading correct spelling.

      Were your parents fans of the TV show you are named after?

    3. being perfectly, strictly, self-interested and rational all the time is a rather joyless way to live.

      How do you know that? Just guessing, or tried it and didn’t like it?

      1. Pretty much. I’ve always been attracted to the irrational.

        There’s somethimg about (say) ripping off your clothes and running around nude screaming gibberish and hallucinating that I find entertaining. And I really don’t see how anyone could classify that as rational.

    4. If John Galt was perfectly rational, he wouldn’t have turned down the job of central planner.

      You read all of Atlas Shrugged and came to that conclusion? Wow.

    5. MThe wierd thing is that although Rand’s characters are *just like* this – totally willing to make personal sacrifices for an ideal

      No.. her characters are not that way. Reardon offers charity several times. Sometimes it’s joyless from ‘false duty’ but not always. His treatment of Wet Nurse was a good example. That scene still makes me sad when I think about it.

      If John Galt was perfectly rational, he wouldn’t have turned down the job of central planner.

      Not so. Galt explained why he wouldn’t take it, not from an idealistic perspective but from a pragmatic perspective. He said it wouldn’t work because in the end they would win and nothing would be fixed in the long run.

  30. The problem with egoism is that it doesn’t necessarily lead to conclusions Objectivists want.

    I was watching Binswanger on Beck awhile back, and he was going on about how the way to defeat the welfare state is to spread egoism, which would convince the “parasites” that they should support the minimal state.

    Unfortunately, it’s pretty easy to see how an individual on welfare might eat up all of the stuff about egoism, and then simply disagree with Binswanger that it’s not in his or her “rational self-interest” to plunder the rich.

    1. But that’s because you accept the altruist idea of what selfishness,i.e. the best life is. You think that what we all really want to do is be serial killer pedophile rapist drug addicts, but only the church or state keep us from giving in to selfishness.

      Two pieces of advice: don’t reproduce and see a shrink.

      1. Yeah, J.J.C. because you’re not one of the people who MATTERS!

  31. Ayn Rand did her best. Maybe she wasn’t deep thinker but she tried very hard. She deserves not only our sympathy but our respect. Let’s give her an “A” for effort!

    1. Rand “not a deep thinker”? Please explain.

      1. Just like a man to equate “longer” with “deeper”. Really, though, Her books are very long, but so what? Repeating the same thing over and over, taking time to add a few fancy-sounding words here and there, does not mean that you’re a deep thinker.

        1. Just like a woman to claim what a man didn’t say is what he DID say. Throwing around stereotypical bromides certainly doesn’t make one a deep thinker, either.

        2. Whereas shouting ‘my twat cares about poor people’ is deep thinking.

        3. Why don’t you try reading something besides just “Atlas” and “Fountainhead”. Start with “The Virtue of Selfishness”, then “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal” and then “The Romantic Manifesto”. If you’re really brave try “Introduction to Objectivist Epistimology”.

        4. This is not a friendly place to display your ignorance.

          Judging Rand from AS or TF, if you even read them, is like judging Carl Sagan by ‘Contact’.

    2. Why do twits like you think you are anything other than pathetic bores?

  32. First, there was the misspelling of the name, “Ann”. Even Anne Applebum got closer than Rand did.

    Second, she got involved with McNally — Huge Mistake!

    Third, she wrote romance novels.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking her. She made an effort. If she was mostly a failure, so what? She tried. That’s all we can really ask of anyone.

  33. Ugg Classic Tall Boots never thought of breast cancer affecting men. Women specially single are affected by this desease. The other reproductive organs must be cheked, they might be affected.

  34. To all webmasters that are looking for new content for their websites, we feel sure that our article directory articles and article rss feeds can easily forefil your needs and much more.

  35. La finesse d’un amour.

    La triste
    atmosph?re d’un
    son m?lodique
    ranime dans
    l’obscurit? d’une
    voix perp?tuelle
    et riche d’harmonie,
    comme le souffle
    du soleil, comme
    le chant de la
    vie qui toujours
    dispara?t…..

    Francesco Sinibaldi

  36. “So where DID she go wrong?”

    Uh, perhaps by being DEAD the past couple and a half of decades? It’s kind of hard to defend yourself and your ideas when you’re not around. Maybe your question shoulda been “Where have WE gone wrong?” That would at least be intellectually honest. Especially since most of your illustrations weren’t….

  37. I often here this:

    “Most people read Rand when they are young and are deeply moved by her, only to outgrow her by mid-life.”

    But… where’s the proof?

  38. You have to be able to take care of yourself before you take care of others.

    1. But, but… according to the “general welfare” mentality, we have to take care of able-bodied, mentally-sound people as well as those who can’t work for a living.

      1. One of your finer posts, JB.

  39. Ms. Rand would most certainly be sick at this Pelosi health care that is probably going to be voted on in a few hours, which is now more than 2,000 pages after some additions last night.

    She would be particularly appalled to know that in the Pelosi bill, non-compliance with the individual mandate to purchase insurance is punishable by up to $250,000 and/or prison time.

    1. Rand would be a mindless slack-jawed sponge glued to FOX news?

      1. Does it get lonely living in such a small universe devoid of ideas Tony?

        1. Ideas like “too many pages!!!”?

          1. How about ideas like “I don’t want to go to jail for not buying your $15,000 piece of shit insurance plan!!!”?

          2. How about ideas like “If this $15,000 piece of shit insurance plan is so wonderful, why don’t you buy it for yourselves, Congressrats?” Got any of those in your universe?

            No. No, I think not.

          3. Yeah, no… I meant that you live in the tiny little universe which reduces all viewpoints which you aren’t quite capable of comprehending into “OMG Faux NEWS is teh SuX0r!!!”

            The intellectual options we have in the real world are nearly limitless Tony, not so easily reduced to “correct” (i.e. whatever idiocy you believe today) and “mindless slack-jawed sponge glued to FOX news”. There are a whole range of alternatives in between. Many of those viewpoints, are indeed be outraged at the Pelosi bill – for example, my own… And without having watched even one minute of Fox news coverage on the topic.

            I wonder what its like to live in the mind of Tony sometimes, though… On the one hand, it seems like it might be peaceful, being completely impervious to intelligent thought that wasn’t proscribed by someone who already fits your way of thinking. On the other, it must be miserable & anger-inducing not really understanding anything very well…

      2. Probably not, she hated religion almost as much as she hated socialism.

        1. Since when is there a difference between them?

      3. She would certainly not be a mindless slack-jawed sponge glued to NPR.

        Tony, your average conservative Fox watcher can only slightly better explain why health care reform is bad than you can attempt to explain about it’s good.

        Both of which are entirely pathetic.

        But you know that. That’s why you’re here. You fear the truth being exposed.

        In this particular case we offer succor to the right, which you really really hate.

        But what I think you hate even more is that we might convert some conservatives:)

  40. “How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.”

    It seems to me that the better off everyone else is, the better off I am as well.

    Therefore, I have a selfish interest in the well being of others. I like living in a better world.

    It is impossible for anyone to be really well off if everyone else is worse off.

  41. Libertarians using against Objectivists precisely the same “you will grow out of it” arguments that people use against Libertarians are pathetic. Didn’t you care to think that perhaps people leave Objectivism, because it is the most difficult philosophy in the world to follow? It offers no excuses to evade reality, if you screw up, you screw up. Not God, State or Society. You. It’s just like she said – you can tell people to despise or love others, but tell them to be proud of themselves and they will hate you.

  42. Oh, another article about Ayn Rand. How refreshing. Quite good though, and I am pleased to read some critical remarks. But let us all move on.

  43. I got such a laugh about how seriously you guys take yourselves. It’s funny how the biggest loudmouths about “liberty” can be some of the most suppressive people around.

    1. Great story though, Shikha.

    2. I live in London. I apologise for this idiot. Really, most of the English are both intelligent and knowledgeable. But not all. Sadly.

      1. Andrew, glad to know you’re in the neighborhood. Why don’t we get together for a beer and I prove that you, my dear friend, are the true idiot.

        1. I’d like to see that videotaped. In my experience liberals are ill equipped to argue with libertarians.

          Certainly this thread is evidence of that.

          1. Haha, I’m not a “liberal” my friend, and certainly your response is evidence that you are a nerd for using a phrase like “ill equipped.”

            1. I don’t dispute being a nerd. In the states however that’s probably not the pejorative you intended, in nerds tend to be pretty successful and infrequently disdained. I think Bill Gates may have had something to do with that.

              How are you not a liberal? Don’t tell me ‘Lib’ stands for libertarian? Libertarians don’t typically accuse libertarians of being ‘suppressive’

              1. If you’re willing to let people you agree with suppress others, you’re not a libertarian, you’re a partisan collectivist.

                1. Well you have the lingo but not the logic. Who suppressed whom?

                  What do you even think libertarianism is?

  44. The behavior of Rand’s character’s conflicts with her own Ideology. Dagney Taggart fights her battle to the bitter end well beyond self interest or the pursuit of self actualization. Despite the rhetoric railing the evils of charity and the elevation of need, it is evident that Rand’s protagonists are often act for reasons beyond their own interests. Whether it is Dagney trying to prevent the economic destruction that would ensue the collapse of the transcontinental railroad, or Galt’s efforts to stop the engine of the world, they are violating Rand’s central principle. Rand’s ideology and the words of her books may have no room for the interests of others, but her plots and the behavior of her characters demonstrate otherwise.

    1. Check your premise..
      You obviously don’t understand her ideology.

    2. Dagny was the protagonist. She was the primary character that had to learn that acting according to objectivism was superior.. by not accepting it until attempts to evade it were proved to be absolutely failed.

      Francisco and Reardon had to learn also though they learned earlier.

      They were not perfectly formed objectivist characters at the start they had to learn the superiority of it.

      Which I don’t agree with btw, though it has a lot of good points.

  45. Good article, but if Adam Smith had it right, then why have things (mostly) become more socialistic since his time? There must be something more to it.

  46. Here is my biggest problem with Ayn Rand. She said in her interview with Mike Wallace that A: “Mans highest moral purpose is his own happiness” and B: “Altruism is not just bad, it is in fact evil.”

    What if altruism is what makes me happy? What is putting other’s before myself is what makes me the most happy?

    If I’m being altruistic I’m being evil, but if I’m pursuing what makes my happiest, I’m fulfilling my highest moral purpose. Explain that one for me.

    Personally, I find objectivism to be a vary irritating philosophy, and I hate being pigeon-holed as a Randroid whenever I bring up the fact that I’m an enthusiastic Libertarian.

    1. There are various typos in that post, I can see that. Please focus on the substance, not the fact that I didn’t proof read for mistakes.

    2. If you truly want to help others, you aren’t engaging in the philosophical altruism Rand talked about. Altruism involves putting others needs before your own. If you want to do it, there’s no contradiction.

      However, if you don’t want to help people, but to put their needs before your own, then you want to be a slave, and that is immoral.

      1. But what if being a slave made me the most happy? This again, is an illustration of an inherent paradox in her philosophy. Her argument is self defeating.

        1. It isn’t a paradox because it isn’t in your interest to be a slave.

          She drew a distinction between following your self-interest and the mindless embrace of your feelings, which she called whim-worship. She believed you should use reason to determine what to do with your life. Just because you want something doesn’t mean you ought to want it; it doesn’t mean it’s good for you in the long-term. You haven’t drawn the distinction between those two concepts so that’s probably why you think she made a contradiction where she didn’t.

    3. And what if I want to draw Square Circles?

      By Rands definition of Altruism, you can not practice it and be happy. One of her points is that no one can really practice Altruism, because it would require you to give everything you have or could have to someone who appears to need it more, including happiness.

      1. “And what if I want to draw square circles?” Thank you for making my point for me.

        Also, if she’s stating that altruism is impossible, then why say it’s evil? That’d be like saying “If you walk through walls, or try to walk through walls, you are evil.” Attempting something that is impossible doesn’t make you evil, it makes you foolish, or insane.

        You are right though to say “Rand’s definition of altruism” if it indeed requires you to “to give everything you have or could have to someone who appears to need it more, including happiness.” Because I can’t find that definition in any dictionary.

        In which case I say, if you redefine something in such a way that makes it look ridiculous, and then shoot it down philosophically, you’re not being intellectually superior or ground breaking, you’re stacking the deck in your favor.

  47. Patience has paid off, and now 33 of 34 planks of the Socialist Party platform in the 30s are now here in America.
    http://www.christianlouboutinshoesmart.com

  48. Excellent piece. It articulated a number of points that have been pinging around my brain. I am about three-quarters of the way through Atlas Shrugged, and I find myself constantly attracted and repelled by Rands world-view. One thought that I think needs constant re-iteration is that successful businesses succeed because they hone in on a specific human need and fulfil it- a tremendously positive and estimable motivation. Dagny Taggarts and Hank Reardens may succeed by obsessiveness, tunnel-vision and emotional frigidity, but businesses don’t. They succeed by giving the person who buys their product exactly what they want. A selfish business will soon be a business with no customers. I am afraid Rand fuses together two things which are not in the real world logically concomitant- self-actualization and business acumen. Thanks again Mr Dalmia.

  49. Back to the Train Analogy of MNG’s —

    For the analogy to actually correspond to MNG’s assertion that outright enslavement or sacrifice of an Atlas (or any individual) is OK if it provides life to a greater number of people, then the Train analogy must look like this:

    1. The switchman is the only one tied to the track.

    2. The other two people have bought a ticket on the train knowing its purpose is to run you over so that they can then stop the train and eat your remains.

    3. The switch will divert the train into a brick wall, killing the passengers.

    4. Do you, the switchman, have a right to divert the train, saving your life and killing the attempted murderers, or not?

  50. And, do the murderers have a right to kill you and eat your remains because there are two of them and only one of you?

    1. Of course. That’s democracy.

  51. Regarding the article and above feedback, there appear to be many who indeed don’t want to be “tax thieves,” but who do want to pay at least some added taxes themselves to help their fellow Americans get a leg up, or to provide public services such as police and military protection, or consumer and environmental protection laws. One way the government could accommodate libertarians who desire not to pay taxes, or to be coerced/enslaved into doing so, is to allow citizens to fully or partially “opt out” of taxation, with the agreement that they then be proportionately fully or partially excluded from using those public services bought or maintained with taxes. The New Hampshire “Atlantis” project is an initial step to help carve an autonomous libertarian-Objectivist community; I suspect Obama and the Feds would be willing to allow a “taxes and services opt-out” option for it, if for no other reason than that it would be an informative and compelling pilot experiment of libertarianism’s claimed superior ability to promote the general welfare.

  52. You seem not to realize that Rand was a philosopher, a technical field. She wanted to divine the principles by which man ought to live. Let’s take this statement of yours:

    They succeed by giving the person who buys their product exactly what they want. A selfish business will soon be a business with no customers.

    You are saying a business should be selfless and give customers what they want. What do customers want most? Why, free products! This is not an unreasonable conclusion given that you say a business should be unselfish. So if we follow your reasoning here, a result is that a business does not actually have to make money. Thus your argument is absurd in the real world because we know a business that doesn’t make money goes out of business.

    How can a business no longer in business be a good business? This is an indication that you’re not thinking clearly: there is some flaw in your premises, and that is the premise that a business has to be unselfish. Yes a business has to focus on its customers, but it also has to make money, to preserve itself, i.e. it has to be selfish.

    You are not using reason in the same way that Rand did, so I don’t think your criticism of her here is valid.

    1. Oops, my reply was too harsh, I think I mixed up what you wrote with some polemical things someone else wrote, so I responded polemically…so the “you seem to not realize Ayn Rand was a philosopher part” and the part about “You must use reason” is way too harsh, sorry.

      However, somehow I did manage to quote you and give a logical argument, that part still seems valid. Disregard the rest of my post if you want.

  53. you should probably go back and re-read a lot of her work, because you literally bring up questions that she answers thousands of times.

  54. This comment has probably already been made, but Dalmia has made a slight mistake in interpreting Rand’s philosophy.

    Rand’s attack on altruism was an attack on the original definition of altruism, i.e. the definition formulated by Auguste Comte. Comte defined altruism as “live for others,” i.e. that an action was good if the ultimate intended end of that action was the good of others.

    This is a much stronger principle than simply ‘be benevolent.’ Indeed, Rand generally saw benevolence as good because it is generally in the interests of any individual to treat others benevolently. For more on the Objectivist case for benevolence, I’d advise Dalmia to read Dr. David Kelley’s “Unrugged Individualism.”

    I am an Objectivist (of the open system variety) and I have never encountered a situation where benevolence and rationally understood self-interest are at odds. Of course, in a culture where the standard image of self-interest is Gordon Gecko, I can understand why some people think a conflict exists.

    In short, altruism is not benevolence, and caring for others is not against one’s self-interest. Rand simply argued that caring for others is not the ultimate end of morality.

  55. Wow, what a “unreasoned” text. Go and read Ayn Rand’s works again, Mr. Dalmia. You clearly don’t understand Objectivism.

  56. “Unlike Smith, Rand failed to fully recognize that though human beings are not constituted for self-sacrifice, they have an innate need to see others prosper.” – Shikha Dalmia

    I’m no Rand scholar, but the books are entirely about people’s “innate need to see others prosper” (e.g. Dominique, Dagny, Ayn herself, and the readers). And self-sacrifice is not precluded either. The books are saturated with heroic (perhaps monistic) self-sacrifice ? to those people and ideas that are worthy!

    I fear you have, like so many others, confused the point – which is that looters do not have the right (and should be precluded the power) to morally DEMAND other peoples self-sacrifice toward their own benefit, detached from logical self-interest.

    Rand’s failing was, and is, her inflexibility, not her logic. In the real world political flexibility is required. (Not unlike elasticity designed into a suspension bridge.) Rand followers general failing is their dogmatism, not their passion. I don’t think it can be argued that Rand was technically a terrible and overly melodramatic writer. Her refurbished ideas were, and are, transcendent though.

    I’m 42. Like most, I first read her works in my early 20s. To this day I’ll drive ? say across the Golden Gate bridge ? and reflect on the magnificence of man’s mind, and what “the creators” have given me personally. I think of my car, or my electrified and networked house, or my computer, or my local supermarket, and the fact that given the raw materials, I could not create any of it (or the crown jewel of the US ? our market economy). I bow to the men of the mind who created these things for me and my family to use. By contrast, my ancestors attribute all things large and small to God. In that sense, the “Randian epiphany” is nothing short of Newtonian in scale.

  57. I first read Rand when I was 15. I’m now 24, half way through medical school, and I haven’t “outgrown her.” Quite the contrary, her ideas are more important to my life now than they have been in the past.

  58. Wow, thanks for the insightful post. I look forward to reading more from you.

  59. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I’m sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won’t get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there’s more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I’m not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It’s just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight…the Bible’s books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on…the Bible’s books were written by people with very different mindsets..

  60. 1)
    “self-actualization through productive work”,
    ->
    self-actualization? seriously…that’s what u took from the book?

    2)
    “….though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it”
    ->
    When did rand says not to derive pleasure from others success?

    3)”But it doesn’t tell us whether we should make them important to us in the first place.”
    ->
    again did u really read “virtue of selfishness”?
    she has excellently explained what “value of a person” must be to you. She has given an example why its morally correct for a husband to want to save his wife even if it means death.

    4)”…cultivating his own passions rather than nurturing his interest in the flourishing of those around him..”
    ->
    WTF… his interest in flourishing of others? OMG!!! Rand’s main point is flourishing of others is not a man’s interest. Only through self-development and devotion to his work will be able to truly help others
    (others=means those he values)
    in the example you have given:
    “would a person who abandons some passion in order to look after an elderly parent have a higher or lower moral standing”
    ->I will again point you to read virtue of selfishness. If the ailing person is of value to him…the man may even give away his life to save the person and still be morally correct.
    So what defines value
    -> READ VIRTUE OF SELFISHNESS. no other book summarizes Rand’s ideas more clearly.
    Personally I found “Atlas shrugged” and “Fountainhead” irrelevant and tedious to read due to obvious repetitions of the same idea.

    5)”Rand gets harder to take as one grows older ”
    ->obvious. others have never read Rand or hav had a similar idea.
    To live purely completely according to Rand’s idea…would mean to go live in the forest(IN TODAY’s SOCIETY).

    6)”requires a coldness of the soul, a narrowing of one’s humanity”
    -> I LOL-ed

    7)”Rand’s ideas offer no real possibility of developing robust civil society.. ”
    -> LOL-ed harder.
    has any other philosopher have had the balls to describe his/her’s philosophy in such depth as to include “gov financing”, a crystal clear rational definition of RIGHT AND WRONG(black and white), what-to-value-and-what-not-to, what-is-life,….OMG I CAN GO ON…she has even told you how it will be morally freaking-ly right for you to invade cuba.
    Enough of spoon feeding.

    8)
    “It is difficult to imagine a Randian qua Randian, say, volunteering in a soup kitchen to feed the hungry”
    ->
    I reject your premise that: it is necessary to imagine Randian’s “volunteering”.
    reform your premise then I will elaborate about “feeding the hungry”

    9)”jettisoning some of her intellectual baggage. ”
    ->
    dude…u have been refuted in every manner possible. guess you are one of those called as “sheep-in-wolf’s-skin”
    xD

  61. Very good points made!

  62. Thank you, my dear on this important topic You can also browse my site and I am honored to do this site for songs
    http://www.a6rbna.com
    This website is for travel to Malaysia
    http://www.m-arabi.com

  63. Thank you, my dear on this important topic You can also browse my site and I am honored to do this site for songs
    http://www.iraq3.com
    This website is for travel to Malaysia
    http://www.iraq3.com/vb

  64. I don’t believe any rational person wants other rational people to fail. This would be a reflection on our own productive efforts and exemplify our failure to educate people in the truths of objectivism. Thus, at the most basic level, WE, as objectivists, are furthering our goals of self-actualization by helping the people who help us. The key here is “people who help us.” Now, if you want to lose yourself in mysticism and contradiction, feel free, but that is not rational. Rational people want other rational people to exist with so we can continue to succeed. It is the hopeless people of the world; like the author of this article, whom we choose not to sanction. Reality…think about it.

  65. I realize it’s been almost half a decade since this was written, but the author makes a grave misunderstanding of Rand and thus the entire article is rendered meaningless.

    “Smith spent his whole life examining and reconciling both the self-interested and the “other-interested” side of human nature. Rand, on the other hand, effectively put these two sides at war”.

    NO. This is not true at all. This is a false dichotomy and Rand herself talked about it as such. Her ethics do not place self interest as opposed to interest in others. Her ethics demonstrates that all actions one takes are either self promoting or self destructive. She acknowledged quite often that it was very good to help others in many instances specifically because it was good for oneself. She also said specifically railed against your conception of self interest, the idea that one had to either be completely self centered, as very harmful and wrong for many of the reasons you actually point out! Cooperation between people is obviously very important. Love is awesome. These are things she was for. There is no contradiction between being interested in oneself and simultaneously others. There is only a contradiction if one attempts to promote one’s own life while simultaneously destroying it.

    1. is there no way to edit comments? wrote this on the fly…

  66. Video Mesum
    Hello very nice website!! Guy , .. Excellent .. Superb ..
    I will bookmark your site and take the feeds also?
    I am glad to search out a lot of useful info here
    in the post, we’d like work out more strategies on this
    regard, thank you for sharing,. googd your blogs
    Obat Pembesar Penis

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.